In The Film Room: Nate Hobbs

Illinois was able to add another key piece at a major position of need with the addition of former Western Kentucky pledge Nate Hobbs of Louisville. Why is he a fit at Illinois? We see what the film says.

At First Glance:

Hobbs has the size and speed to be able to play Big Ten football.  It's kind of surprising how Hobbs' recruitment didn't become more high-profile.  He plays at a historically-talented high school and has legitimate D1 measureables.

Hobbs is not only a threat as a defensive playmaker, but also impacts the game on special teams with his ability to return kicks and punts.

Tale of the Tape:

Hobbs' senior tape really starts with a bang with a clip of him returning an acrobatic interception for touchdown, weaving his way through the opponent and leaving would-be tacklers in the dust.

I really like Hobbs' ability to be physical at the line of scrimmage with receivers.  Illinois having another physical press corner will help alleviate some of the issues in the past of opposing receivers getting free releases.  With another capable man coverage corner on the depth chart, The defense will be able to play more aggressively and take more chances.

Hobbs shows some flashes in run support, and has great pursuit speed.  His tackling technique is solid, but he will need to be more consistent in form tackling at the next level when receivers are tougher to bring down.  

How He Fits:

Hobbs has a similar body type as redshirt senior-to-be Jaylen Dunlap (about 6'1", good frame, with strength).  His ability to quickly change direction and accelerate will help him in man coverage.

But that agility and speed could make him a threat in the return game on special teams, too.  Illinois has struggled in the return game since the departure of do-it-all corner V'Angelo Bentley.  But even with Bentley, the Illini have lacked a gamebreaker at the return spots.

Hobbs shows great potential as a return man, especially in making guys miss in the open field.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a crack at it.  If Illinois also ends up landing elite East St. Louis WR Jeff Thomas, then I project that the two will line up deep to receive kickoffs and possibly even punts together.  Teams will either have to kick to one of them, or kick out of bounds, and subsequently that shifts field position in a big way.

At corner, Illinois got solid play later in the season from redshirt freshman Cameron Watkins and at times from Frank Sumpter.  But with Darius Mosley graduating, and the remainder of the depth chart being fairly inexperienced, Illinois needed to land a couple quality corners in the 2017 class, and added a big piece with Hobbs to go along with Tony Adams.

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