Scouting the Big 10: Illinois

The 2001 campaign was a dream season for the Fighting Illini as they were crowned Big Ten Champions and deserved the honor. The program needs to find a replacement for Kurt Kittner but should still be competitive this year and may have a good amount of impact during the first 45 selections of next April's draft.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois has a major pro-prospect and big game wide out in Brandon Lloyd, a nice sized receiver that makes all the catches and breaks contests wide open with huge receptions down the field. A natural pass catcher, Lloyd impacts the game and controls it at the same time. He did a fine job returning in '01 after missing his entire sophomore campaign with a broken leg. Should he take his game to the next level, enter the draft, then run well prior to April, Lloyd may just slide into the very late part of round one. Another big play receiver is Walter Young, a huge target that amasses and amazing 17.8-yards every time he catches the ball. Relatively consistent, Young uses his large frame to out-muscle opponents and, as his stats would dictate, sneaks it downfield on occasion. His penchant for the deep ball may be more a result of opposing safeties keeping a close eye on Brandon Lloyd as Young does not have the speed one would think. Right now it is safe to say he's a better version of Mickael Ricks (spelling?), the former Stephan F Austin pass catcher that has bounced around the league. Illinois has another pair of senior wide outs in Greg Lewis and Aaron Moorehead that will receive free agent consideration. At one point we had high hopes for offensive tackle Tony Pashos, a right side player we graded out as highly as Marquis Sullivan two-years ago, but a lineman that has progressed at a very slow rate recently. Possessing both size and strength, he is competent blocking for both the run or pass and works to play with good fundamentals but is not a nimble or agile blocker and lacks top lateral range, which will push him into the second day. Senior running back Antoine Harris is a nice sized ball carrier that displays good vision and adequate hands but possesses minimal speed or quickness, which will push him out of the seven rounds.

Its' been a while since a player from this program was taken in the initial frame but cornerback Eugene Wilson could break through. A tough, physical cover-man with both instincts and techniques, Wilson is effective either backed off the line of scrimmage or in press coverage. His overall awareness of what's happening on the field is impressive as are the number of passes he breaks up. The difference in Wilson being left out of the first 32 picks could be his pre-draft 40-clocking as on film he does not seem to be fleet of foot. The other corner, junior Christian Morton, has the speed and is developing into a very good prospect. Inside linebacker Jerry Schumacher is similar to several Illinois predecessors; a hard-hitting, hard-working run defender with a great head on his shoulders lacking the top athleticism and more of a two-down player with limited skills against the pass. Finally, end Derrick Strong has flashed ability in the past and now moves into a starting roll.

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