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2017 Illinois Football Player Reviews: WRs & TEs

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We continue our football roster analysis by taking a look at the pass catchers.

Illinois v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

We continue our series where we will review the performance of each Illinois player and see what might be in store for the Illini’s future.

Today, we are looking at the pass catchers.


Tight Ends

Louis Dorsey

Louis Dorsey Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
12 22 395 18 3 77 32.9

Louis Dorsey is a DUDE. Dorsey showcased great playmaking potential in his freshman year. He is a huge threat in the middle of the field with is size and speed as more of a “tweener” between a tight end and wide receiver.

His 77 yard touchdown against Indiana was the longest reception by a freshman in program history.

Dorsey also can make the spectacular catch. Also from the Indiana game.

Dorsey made BTN.com’s Big Ten All-Freshman team. Dorsey has great potential. If Illinois had more consistent QB play we would have seen even more of Dorsey. He will be a big threat on seam routes for the next few years for Illinois at the very least, and he could become a special player.

Nathan Echard

Nathan Echard Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
2 2 19 9.5 0 14 9.5

Echard missed the last 10 games of his senior season due to an injury. Orginally a walk-on to the team in 2013, he was going to be one of the main blocking tight ends/fullbacks for the Illini. Injuries suck.

Henry McGrew

Henry McGrew Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
12 1 8 8 0 8 0.7

McGrew played in all 12 games, starting three times. He was primarily an extra blocker when he was on the field. He has one more year of eligibility left in 2018.

Griffin Palmer

The redshirt freshman played in one game this season against Western Kentucky, and didn’t see the field the rest of the year.

Bobby Walker

Bobby Walker Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
12 1 7 7 0 7 0.5

Bobby Walker played in all 12 games for Illinois and was used mostly on special teams. He has two more years left in orange and blue.

Alex Pihlstrom

Pihlstrom took a redshirt in 2017. He has great size at 6’ 6” and 235 pounds and could be a useful player moving forward.


Wide Receivers

Ricky Smalling

Ricky Smalling Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
12 31 510 16.5 2 76 42.5

Smalling led the Illini in receiving yards in 2017. Smalling isn’t the fastest nor the tallest wide receiver, but he has great hands and is good at adjusting to the ball in the air. Simply put, this is a guy who excels at catching passes.

He was a deep threat for Illinois. Smalling had six consecutive games with at least one 20+ yard reception.

He has the ability to become a true number one WR for Illinois, but he needs to be more consistent. There were 5 games in 2017 where Smalling was held to fewer than 20 yards, and in four games he was held to just one or no receptions.

A huge chunk of that blame goes to the quarterback play and the poor offense limiting opportunities for Smalling. However Smalling struggled against the better pass coverage teams on the Illinois schedule.

Better QB play and adding an additional threat should help Smalling out. He has the potential to be the next big time wideout for the Illini. His ability to adjust to the ball in the air was far advanced for a first year player. He should continue to improve upon that and make some more highlight catches in 2018 and beyond.

Carmoni Green

Carmoni Green Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
6 8 75 9.4 0 18 12.5

Carmoni Green was ranked a four star recruit by Rivals. He played in six games in his freshman season, after making his debut in the Nebraska game. He only made 8 catches in his six games played.

I thought it was questionable to pull his redshirt. I understand the team was desperate for playmakers, but to burn a year of eligibility for Green was questionable at the time, and now in hindsight, it was a poor choice.

Illinois needs another wide receiver to step up in 2018, and Green is one of the favorites to do that.

Dominic Thieman

Dominic Thieman Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
10 11 144 13.1 0 30 14.4

Thieman played in 10 games, and started the opener against Ball State. He didn’t make a large impact in 2017. The rising junior still has great athleticism — he was the triple jump state champion in Florida -— and could find a way to put it together on the football field in his final two years.

Sam Mays

Same Mays played in seven games, but didn’t record a reception. He is transferring from Illinois and will have one year of eligibility left.

Malik Turner

Malik Turner Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
10 31 326 10.5 0 29 32.6

Turner finished his Illinois career in ninth place in receiving yards (1,804) and receptions (143) in Illinois football history.

Turner steadily increased his production from his freshman year (256 yards) to his sophomore year (510 yards) and his junior year (712 yards), and was expected to be a big time threat for Illinois this past season.

That didn’t happen for Turner. He finished with only 326 yards. It’s hard to be a wide receiver when your QB play is poor and that QB has little time to throw it because of poor offensive line play.

He has a small shot on being picked up as an undrafted free agent in the NFL with his size and speed.

Caleb Reams

Caleb Reams Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
11 4 32 8 1 14 2.9

Caleb Reams is a good special teams player for the Illini, and he was able to see the field on offense for some plays in 2017. He even scored a TD on his first catch of the year.

He has two more years of eligibility with Illinois.

Trenard Davis

Trenard Davis Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
9 10 152 15.2 0 50 16.9

Trenard Davis has practiced at QB, safety, and WR for the Illini in his two years with the program. He seems to have found his home at WR, and should be a decent contributor going forward.

On one play they used Trenard Davis as a passer, and this could be something Illinois could use moving forward if offensive coordinator Garrick McGee is so inclined.

Kendall Smith

The true freshman Smith played in all twelve games on special teams, recording one tackle.

Mike Dudek

Mike Dudek Receiving 2017

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
7 24 262 10.9 1 31 37.4

Some athletes are really unlucky when it comes to injuries. Sometimes the angles and size of their joints puts them at more risk for injuries. Sometimes rehab doesn’t work well. Sometimes athletes just get hurt with the dice roll of each play in practice and games doesn’t go their way.

Whatever the issue is for Mike Dudek, he is extremely unlucky when it comes to injuries.

Dudek played in his first game for Illinois since his fantastic freshman year in 2014 as a redshirt junior. It started off well. Illinois owes the Ball State win in a large part to two huge plays by Mike Dudek.

But it became clear soon that Dudek wasn’t 100% and we weren’t seeing the “real” Mikey Dudek.

Dudek also missed five games with two injuries that were both undisclosed. I’d would wager that they were related to the back to back ACL surgeries and rehab that Dudek went through, but with how Lovie Smith is secretive with his injury report, we just don’t know.

Dudek has one more year left with Illinois. He will likely not reach the heights of his fantastic freshman year again, but I’m desperately hoping that Dudek can be healthy and become a contributor to the offense again in 2018.

Please just let us have this football gods. Let us have our DUDE-k.

Shawn McPartland

The freshman walk-on didn’t see the field in 2017.

Keith Jones

Neither did this freshman walk-on.

William DuPont

The former minor league baseball player took a redshirt in 2018.

James Bartholomew

Another walk-on who took a redshirt for Illinois.

Jordan Roberts

The senior joined the team as a walk-on in October.