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Could Illinois DE Dawuane Smoot be a First Round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft?

Good morning. Welcome to the Orange Minute for Saturday, June 25.

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Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Who will be the next Fighting Illini to be taken in the First Round of the NFL Draft? If all goes according to plan this Fall, that player may already be on the roster. Illinois defensive end Dawuane Smoot is shaping up to be the best pass rusher in the Big Ten Conference. The 6-foot-3, 283-pound senior racked up 8.0 sacks and 15.0 tackles for loss during the 2015 campaign; he's already been mentioned in early 2017 mock drafts by Rotoworld and Pro Football Focus as a result.

Jeremy Werner and Illini Inquirer just published a fantastic feature on Smoot, and it's well worth your time. Highlights of the piece include Smoot's thoughts on expectations for the upcoming season, and the impact of the new coaching staff. Also, he wants everyone to know that his name his pronounced Duh-WAHN, not Duh-WAYNE. That bit is particularly important, in my opinion.

While Illinois may have a formidable group of starting lineman, the lack of depth may allow opposing teams to key in on Smoot more often this season. That's obviously not the best news for his production, but the added attention should present Smoot with some more opportunities to make impressive plays in front of scouts. Hopefully he'll be able to take advantage and cement his name as one of the top prospects in the country.

Illinois Fighting Illini Links | June 25, 2016

Illini offer scholarship to 2019 SG Perry Cowan (The News-Gazette)

Cowan started for [DePaul Prep] during his freshman season and helped lead them to a 15-15 record and a regional title as the No. 2 scoring option. Cowan averaged 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals per game.

No. 41 Illinois player of 2016: Zarrian Holcombe (The News-Gazette)

He's got good size at 6 feet, 6 inches that coaches can't teach, not even Lovie Smith. He'll need to add weight to his 220-pound frame and clean up his run blocking, but any pass-catching skills he possesses would certainly be a bonus after Illinois tight ends only managed 19 receptions for 110 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Tales of the Tape: Ricky Smalling Scouting Report (TCR)

Smalling was one of Lovie Smith's first verbal commitments as head coach of the Fighting Illini. How does he project to the next level? Here's our scouting report of the three-star wide receiver.

Former Illini guard Brandon Paul to play in NBA Summer League (TCR)

The former Illinois star announced that he'll be a member of the Charlotte Hornets on the Orlando circuit later this Summer. Paul, who's been struggling with shoulder injuries, played professionally for FIATC Joventut (Spain) last season.

Deron Williams opts out of contract with Dallas Mavericks (TCR)

Normally, declining a player option is a sign that a player is unhappy in his current situation. This summer, however, is abnormal, as teams are suddenly flush with about $25 million more to spend on their teams. That means every player with an opt-out clause has tremendous incentive to take advantage, Williams being no different.