When the ball entered the air during the 2016 season, it was going in the direction of Fighting Illini receiver Malik Turner — or at least it always seemed that way.
The talented senior has been the saving grace in the Fighting Illini offense. Last season, Turner led the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, demonstrating his ability to be a go-to target game after game. Turner’s high numbers even gave him conference recognition, placing him sixth in receptions per game and seventh in touchdowns on the season.
As the start of the season fastly approaches, Turner will continue to be the number one option at the receiver position for Illinois. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Illinois native can, literally, do it all. Whether he needs to bail out his quarterback on a 68-yard bomb down the field, come down with a one handed grab on the sidelines, or merely get open on an 8-yard slant route, Turner is the guy for the job.
With this being his last season of eligibility, it is possible that fans could be seeing his best season yet. Illinois head coach Lovie Smith is heading into his second season and expectation are increasingly high and having Turner on the offensive side of the ball should help improve the Fighting Illini’s image as the season goes on.
Turner’s sheer talent isn’t the only reason to be expecting an above and beyond performance, but with the addition of two-year absentee Mike Dudek back into the receiving core, it could distract defenses from focusing strictly on Turner.
While a lot of the Illini’s season is surrounded by question marks, Malik Turner is no uncertainty — he’s the real deal.