Who will newly anointed starter Wes Lunt be throwing to? Your guess is as good as mine. The receiving core is a glaring question mark for the Illini as they enter the 2014 season. With three of the top five pass catchers departing a few of the newcomers will need to step up.
The 2013 receiving core featured a group of upperclassmen. Senior Steve Hull led the way with a team-high 993 yards and 7 TDs while Josh Ferguson, Spencer Harris, Miles Osei, and Martize Barr rounded out the top pass catchers. A major blow was dealt to the team early on when Ryan Lankford was lost to a season-ending injury--the senior still managed to 308 yards and a 72-yard TD on 15 catches.
Here's a report from Spring ball:
Excluding Ferguson, senior Martize Barr and junior Justin Hardee are the only returning members of the unit that logged significant game time. It remains to be seen if the veterans can contribute, but expect them to be the "leaders" of the group. Beyond them it's real mystery due to the lack experience. The effectiveness of the passing game could be determined by the play of JUCO transfer Geronimo Allison and true-freshman Malik Turner. Mikey Dudek, another freshman, has also impressed during the spring and could see some major time at the slot position. The Illini will also return Tight Ends Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse. Coming off nearly identical seasons statistic-wise, they'll provide some stability for Wes Lunt.
Underthrown? That's ok. Malik will catch it. https://t.co/xrZRurbz2E— Robert (@ALionEye) August 15, 2014
Lunt throwing well tonight. This one to Barr. https://t.co/Fa8t9t0old— Robert (@ALionEye) August 15, 2014
Let's go to the booth. Did Malik Turner get his foot down? https://t.co/hva51EuAui— Robert (@ALionEye) August 15, 2014
And then Lunt to G-Mo. https://t.co/EVl4H9rThZ— Robert (@ALionEye) August 15, 2014
The constants in the passing game will be Josh Ferguson, Jon Davis, and Matt Lacosse. Beyond them it's a mystery. Based on reports from camp it appears that Geronimo Allison, Malik Turner, Mikey Dudek, and Martize Barr will be the main guys, but who knows. At 6-4, Allison could become a legitimate weapon in Bill Cubit's offense. Where will Justin Hardee fit in? Will JUCO transfer Tyrin Stone-Davis make an impact? Only time will tell.
I'm real high on this group's potential, but the lack of experience has me worried. How will the newcomers fair against B1G-caliber competition? I think the best-case grade for the receiving core is a B, but it'll take a bit of time to get to that point. I'm giving them a C until they start to show signs of that potential.