Illinois' Consistent Threat

<p>"Who's number nineteen?" There's a question that can be heard in the stands at the Illinois football games this year. With the up (singular) and downs of this Illini team, there has been a lot of inconsistency. The offense won't show up to one game, the defense will take the next game off, but there is one player besides Jon Beutjer that shows up every game, Mark Kornfeld.

Kornfeld is the name that goes along with those one handed grabs, diving catches on 3rd downs, and that great Touchdown grab during the Illinois State game. No one wears his jersey to the games, and most didn't even know he played wide-receiver until the year started. However, with 18 catches in 4 games that totaled 229 yards and a TD, most fans found out that he does play wide-out, and he can play it well.

Casual Illini fans wouldn't even know that he was on the team until this year, and more involved fans most likely remember him as the third quarterback on the depth chart last year, behind Beutjer and Ward. That's right, quarterback; in high-school Kornfeld was an All-State quarterback setting records in the St. Louis area, and when he came to Illinois in 2000 he was still a quarterback. In fact he didn't make the switch to wide-out until preseason workouts in 2002.

Kornfeld hasn't displayed great speed or elusiveness after catches, but one thing he has shown is soft hands. His hands are something Jon Beutjer must love, because if the situation is third down, number nineteen is in the game somewhere (Ron Turner seems to be making sure of it) and the ball is coming his way. Usually an in or an out play, Kornfeld gets the ball out of the break, and it hasn't mattered this season if the ball is too high, low, in front, or behind because Kornfeld torques his body respectively to adjust and then, first and ten for the Illini. The crowd cheers for number nineteen as he gets up, and then back to the huddle for Kornfeld.

As depressing as this season has been, keep in mind that this offense has been producing well even with the new young talent it has, and that having this depth at wide receiver can help stretch out a college defense which is almost never a good situation for them. If Wisconsin has to spread the field to respect Hayden, Hurst, and Kornfeld when they are slit wide, that will allow for Halsey or Virgil to have fewer men filling holes between the tackles. If the defense could make more big plays, there would be more wins.

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