2007 Illinois Football Preview

 
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2007 Illinois Fighting Illini football preview

2006 Record: 2-10, 1-7
Head Coach:
Ron Zook

Players Drafted:
Alan Ball - CB - Round 7 - Dallas

Key Players Returning:
QB Juice Williams – Soph.
WR Kyle Hudson – Jr.
LG Martin O’Donnell – Sr.
RB Rashard Mendenhall – Jr.
FS Kevin Mitchell – Sr.
DT Chris Norwell – Sr.
CB Vontae Davis – Soph.
LB J Leman – Sr.

Top Recruits:
Arrelious Benn – WR – 6’1” – 210 – Washington, D.C.
Martez Wilson – DE – 6’4” – 230 – Chicago, IL
Josh Brent – DT – 6’3” – 280 – Bloomington, IL
D’Angelo McCray – DT – 6’4” – 290 – Jacksonville, FL

 

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2007 Illinois Offensive Outlook:

The Illini return nine starters to the offensive side of the ball in 2007. Sophomore QB Isiah “Juice” Williams enters this season as the clear-cut starter. Williams gained valuable experience by seeing action in 12 games as a freshman and proved to be a major threat to run the ball. His playmaking ability is outstanding, but he needs to improve his passing. The receivers could help the passing game by hanging on to the ball. Dropped passes added to a low completion percentage (39.5%) for Williams. Kyle Hudson returns after leading the Illini in receptions in 2006 and should get plenty of help from top recruit Arrelious Benn. Benn possesses size and speed (4.5, 40-yard dash) to become an instant playmaker to open the field for the Illini. TE Jeff Cumberland snagged 16 passes as a freshman and should improve in his second season.

The running game should be solid despite the loss of starter Pierre Thomas. Rashard Mendenhall averaged 8.2 yards-per-carry last season, and the offensive line returns four starters. Mendenhall has size to pound the ball at 6’0”, 225 and highlighted his speed with an 86 yard touchdown run against Northwestern last season. The lone senior lineman, Martin O’Donnell, is a four-year starter who will lead a line that should not have trouble opening holes for the running game. The key for the offense in 2007 is finding a balance of passing to accompany the running game.




2007 Illinois Defensive Outlook:

On the defensive side of the ball the Illini have nine starters returning, and senior LB J. Leman will be a key component after racking up 152 tackles last season. The defensive line showed improvement last year and has added depth with freshmen DT Josh Brent and DE Martez Wilson to assist DT Chris Norwell (5 sacks) and DE Derek Walker (5.5 sacks).

The Illini lost the leader of their defensive backfield CB Alan Ball in the NFL draft, but return three starters along with sophomore CB Travon Bellamy who intercepted two passes last year. Seniors Kevin Mitchell and Justin Harrison will fill the safety positions, and sophomore Vontae Davis possesses shut-down skills at CB.

The Fighting Illini have playmakers on the defensive line, at linebacker, and in the defensive backfield. Last season the defense held the high-powered Ohio State offense to just 17 points, but allowed Purdue to score 42 points the following week. Considering the talent that Ron Zook has accumulated over the past two years, expect the defense to continue to improve and show more consistency in 2007.


2007 Illini Special Teams:

Sr. Jason Reda returns after a solid 2006 season where he converted 15 of 18 field goal attempts. Anthony Santella will battle Kyle Yelton for the punting duties. Benn will enter the mix on kick returns to bolster an area that did not produce a touchdown last season.

 

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Illinois 2007 Prediction:

This preview looks a lot like the 2006 preview. Zook has large number of starters returning on both sides of the ball. His 2007 recruiting class received high rankings. Now it is time for the Illini to produce on the field. Five wins this season would be a nice building block for a number of young players.

Illinois Fighting Illini 2007 Football Schedule

September 1 - Missouri
September 8 - Western Illinois
September 15 - @ Syracuse
September 22 - @ Indiana
September 29 - Penn State
October 6 - Wisconsin
October 13 - @ Iowa
October 20 - Michigan
October 27 - Ball State
November 3 - @ Minnesota
November 10 - @ Ohio State
November 17 - Northwestern

 

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