Playing a record-setting amount of freshman was an enormous risk that will most likely pay out in the future for Lovie Smith. Many freshmen had to step up and become key players, but one of the most impactful freshman this season was Bobby Roundtree.
Coming out of high school, Roundtree held offers from multiple Division I schools including Minnesota, Michigan State and Virginia Tech. Even with plenty of phenomenal football programs giving him enticing offers, he decided to sign with the Illini. He came to school and added thirty-five pounds to his NFL sized body frame and is now six-foot- five and 245 pounds.
With the departure of Carroll Phillips and Dawuane Smoot, the starting defensive end spots were up for grabs. The coaches were pleased and impressed with Roundtree’s performance in camp and gave him the opportunity to become the first true freshman to start a season opener at defensive end since 1980.
Roundtree outplayed the three-star rating he was graded in high school by recording three sacks, one forced fumble and two pass breakups in the first two games of the season. Although he couldn’t keep up those stats, he continuously posed a threat to the opposing teams each week.
Bobby Roundtree produced a strong freshman campaign and ended the year tied for the most sacks and sixth for the most Illinois tackles. He was also named to the BTN All-Freshmen Big Ten team.
Illini fans and coaches hope for him to build on this year and become an anchor for the defense with his remaining years in Champaign.