Coach Illing is excited about his team's outlook this season, but unfortunately he may be without one of his top juniors, cornerback Perry James (6-foot-0, 175 pounds). James has been slow to recover from a shoulder injury he suffered last season, and unfortunately he may miss a good portion of the season.
"It was a similar injury to the one that happen to Darrin Walls," coach Illing said of the injury to James. "It happened at the end of last season. We thought we had it rehabbed during the winter and spring, but then during seven-on seven this summer it came out a couple times, so the doctor said that it was time to go in and take care of it. He's rehabbing it now, so we hope to have him back toward the end of the season."
Despite the injury, Illing expects the top programs to make a strong push to get James' signature, including Notre Dame.
"Notre Dame has inquired about him, along with a lot of other schools," coach Illing said. "We're getting stuff from a lot of schools on the East Coast like Georgia, North Carolina, N.C. State and those type of schools.
"I think he'd be interested in Notre Dame, I don't know who wouldn't. He's a young kid so he's just getting his eyes open to all that's available. He's had Raeshon [McNeil] to look up to, so I think he'd love to have the opportunity to go up there to play with Raeshon.
"They're very similar," Illing said of James and McNeil. "They're two kids that look alike as far as their body build. Raeshon has come home this summer and worked with him and showed him some of the things that he learned at Notre Dame. That helped Perry this summer in our seven-on-sevens."
Once Illing gets James back on the field, he'll have the services of one of his top playmakers.
"He's extremely fast. He's a 4.4-forty kid," Illing explained. "He's a big defensive back. He's a great athlete with really good hands. He's explosive. He's explosive out of his cuts. He covers a lot of ground. He's able to stay with the tall receivers. He can return kicks, and we've used him at receiver some, so we really lost a big player when we lost him."
On the offensive side of the ball Illing has a new weapon. Junior James Mayfield (6-foot-0, 205 pounds) played linebacker last season, but in 2007 he's lined up in the backfield and he's doing a lot of damage.
"I think he's capable of being a Division I running back," Illing said of Mayfield. "He has really good hands. He's just a beast. He is physical. He's fast. He's elusive. He runs with power. He'll do it between the tackles and he'll do it on the edge. He runs through a lot of tackles. He has a goods burst and he has power. He has the total package.
"Last year he had to play linebacker for us, so he didn't get a lot of running back action. Already this season he has over 400 yards rushing and three touchdowns in two games. He's doing it all. He catches the ball out of the backfield. He does a little bit of everything."