The Illini have some major headlines going into the 2014 football season. I'm going down to Rantoul Thursday and Friday to check in on the team and give you guys my perspective on how things are going. If you want to get involved you can do so by:
I'll be going to Rantoul tmrw. Have a question or want me to look at something? Just use #askTCRinRantoul— Bryce (@OrangeBlueCraze) August 14, 2014
Is Geronimo Allison going to be the guy? Right now he looks to be the number 1 wide receiver, but is an incoming JUCO good enough to be that for us? This question goes for all of the wide receivers. How good will freshman Mike Dudek and Malik Turner be? From everything we've heard these three will be amongst our top 4 wide receivers. One guy I hope impresses me is Justin Hardee. I really liked him as a freshman, but he had a sophomore slump. Hopefully he shows some improvement and consistency as he heads into his junior year. Can Tyrin-Stone-Davis prove himself? We've heard about so many of these players, but we've never actually seen them play. It will be interesting to see if this unit can hold it's own throughout the season.
Can Earnest Thomas become a STAR?
In both ways. I'm interested to see how Earnest Thomas III has transitioned to his new position: STAR. Also will he make a senior leap and have a season to remember? I believe that after playing safety his whole career Thomas will know some QB tendencies and help get us some picks. His new position is more tuned to his skill set and hopefully it will lead to an even more successful season. Now that he moves up that leaves an opening within our secondary. Once again, he's a guy we've never seen at this position, so I'm excited to go see him play.
Legion of Doom... to Boom?
Everyone knows the Seattle Seahawks Legion of Boom, or secondary, headlined by corner Richard Sherman. Last year our secondary would probably have been called the Legion of Doom. Can we turn that around this year and become a reliable B1G unit? According to sources in Rantoul, the DB's are "flying around" this year. I'm excited to see all the corners being a year older and smarter. I expect a leap from V'Angelo Bentley and Eaton Spence, but I'm also looking forward to the strides sophomores Jaylen Dunlap, Caleb Day, and Darius Mosely have made. As for the safeties, well they're still a big question mark. With ET3 leaving, the two starters are most likely Taylor Barton and Zane Petty. Both were shaky in their first year as starters, but that might have also been from a lack of pass rush. I'll be looking for them tomorrow.
Do We Have a Pass Rush?
Last year we had a lot of trouble getting to the QB. We have senior Austin Teitsma in the middle and young guys like Teko Powell and Jarrod "Chunky" Clements. DeJazz Woods is apparently impressing as well. This will be an interesting thing for me to see, as I know the 1st string O-line is solid so it should be a battle up front. If we are able to get a pass rush this year it will help the entire defense out a lot.
How are the Helmets?
The least serious of all the headlines, but I want to see us in our new helmets. During training camp the players have been wearing the orange matte helmets. I want to see how I think they'll look first hand.
Is There Even a QB Race Anymore?
From most things we've heard Aaron Bailey is really struggling, Riley O'Toole seems to have gotten a little better, and Wes Lunt is the favorite to win the job. When I go down there today I'm going to see if these reports are true. This close to the season the staff probably knows who it's going to be.