2014 ILLINOIS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
June 25, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
2014 Illinois Fighting Illini football preview
Illinois suffered through a one in seven Big Ten season for many reasons but perhaps the biggest was their lack of defense. Illinois gave up 35.4 points per game which ranked 104th in the country and they gave up 481.5 yards per game in total offense which ranked 110th. Coach Tim Beckman and his staff feel they have upgraded that defense with more speed strength and playmakers. In 2013, one of the reasons they struggled was their lack of experience and their lack of strength. Getting into the weight room in the off-season and adding speed during the spring should make Illinois better. One of the big changes was moving Ernest Thomas from strong safety to linebacker. Thomas had 101 tackles last season. Two starters return on the defense of line including Austin Telsma and Teko Powell. They will be joined by Kenny Nelson Paul James and Jihad Ward. With Thomas moving to linebacker he’ll be joined by TJ Neil and Mason Monheim. The secondary returns to starters including Zane Petty and V’Angelo Bentley. True sophomore Caleb Day was a nice surprise during the spring as he will step in at starting cornerback.
Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit returns for his second season after inheriting a team that was one of the nations’ worst in points scored yards gained and first downs. His quick read passing attack turn things around in 2013. The offense will have to retool after losing their starting quarterback and their top three receivers. Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey are battling it out for the starting spot going into the fall at quarterback. Running back Josh Ferguson averaged 5.5 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns last year and also caught 50 passes and four touchdowns out of the backfield. The wide receiver slots will be filled by Geronimo Allison, Mike Dudek and Martize Barr. The offensive line returns four starters including left guard Alex Hill, right guard Ted Karras and right tackle Michael Heltz.
Illinois opens the season against two winnable opponents in Youngstown State and Western Kentucky before traveling to Washington on September 13. The Big Ten opener will be September 27 at Nebraska and Illinois has tough road trips in the conference to Wisconsin and Ohio State. Winning those games early should give Illinois confidence going into the Big Ten season.
2013 Record: (4-8, 1-7)
2013 Team Stats: