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Illinois Football Roster Review: TEs

A look at the options at tight end for the Illini in 2017.

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To see previous roster breakdowns, click here.

Due to the widespread adoption of the spread offense — and all of the related offenses it inspired — the tight end became a less important posistion in college football, mostly relegated to blocking duties while on the field.

Now the tight end is making a slow comeback into college football. As teams have learned how to play a power running game out of shotgun formations — i.e. Ohio State and Clemson — tight ends are becoming a real threat in the passing game once more.

Illinois tight ends only come into 2017 with combine career reception totals of 10 catches for 64 yards, but there are some young, and extremely tall, players who will get their chances.

Returning Players

Caleb Reams - #13, SO, 6’ 2”, 250 lbs

Reams Receiving Stats

Year Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Year Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
2016 5 2 9 4.5 0 5 1.8

Reams was ranked the 23rd best prospect in the state of Illinois by Scout in 2014. He took a redshirt in 2015 and had a slow start to his Illini career in his redshirt freshman season. He is Illinois most experienced “true” TE, and he should be on the field more often this season.

Nathan Echard - #39, SR, 6’ 2”, 245 lbs

Echard Receiving Stats

Year Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Year Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
2014 12 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 11 4 4 1 0 7 0.4
2016 12 4 51 12.8 0 26 4.3

Echard started his career as a linebacker, before being moved to H-Back in 2015. He is now listed as a TE, but will most prominently feature as a fullback and as a special team player. Echard led Illinois in special team tackles (10) in 2016.

Henry McGrew - #45, JR, 6’ 3”, 245 lbs

McGrew has moved from defense to offense. He started his freshman year as linebacker, before being moved to defensive line. He is now a tight end, but he will mostly be used as a special teams player, and I do not imagine we will see much of McGrew on the field with the offense.

Griffin Palmer - #81, R-FR, 6’ 5” 230 lbs

Griffin Palmer was redshirted last season. The St. Charles, Mo. product lettered in varsity four times in both football and basketball in high school. He has the size and the athleticism to be a threat for Illinois, and we will see if he can put that potential together in his time in Champaign.

Bobby Walker - #83, SO, 6’ 4”, 230 lbs

Walker is a walk-on from Golf, Ill., which is a great name for a town.

New Arrivals

Louis Dorsey - #19, FR, 6’ 6”, 225 lbs, Jacksonville, Fla.

Dorsey choose to commit to Illinois over other Power Five offers from Baylor, Indiana, North Carolina, Rutgers, West Virginia, LSU and Florida State. He was ranked the 16th best TE by ESPN.

Dorsey has also been practicing at WR in training camp, and he could find himself lined up at both positions for the Illini.

With the lack of receiving TEs ahead of Dorsey, he could see himself on the field as a true freshman, and, with his size, make an impact right away as a red-zone threat. He is one of the freshman to keep your eyes on this season.

Alex Pihlstrom - #89, FR, 6’ 6” 235 lbs, Glen Ellyn, Ill.

A walk-on who also played basketball and tennis in high school, and won a state title with Glen Ellyn in 2015.

Final Thoughts

Illinois may not get much production in terms of receiving out of this group, but McGrew and Echard are key special team contributors, and they will be used as extra blockers on offense. Illinois has not used TEs often in the passing game, but, with some young talent in Dorsey and Reams paired with a changing offense, maybe that will begin to change.