I was very worried about the offensive line heading in this season, for two reasons: (1) They were very young and (2) they lacked depth.
The depth issue wasn’t a problem as Illinois didn’t have any major injuries to the starting five to cause them to miss any games. Illinois was very lucky in that department.
The young issue was a problem to start. Illinois lost the battle at the line of scrimmage in its first two games against Kent State and Western Illinois. They were a Big Ten offensive line that was being manhandled by MAC and FCS schools. I was quite terrified of what that meant for the offense moving forward as they faced better defensive linemen in the Big Ten.
However, something changed around the Penn State game. Something clicked or the OL starting drinking different water, changed its diet, or did yoga or something. I’m not sure what it was, but the offensive line almost pulled a complete 180. Not only were they competent against their Big Ten opponent, they turned into one of the best run blocking lines in the country. The Illini finished 13th in the nation in rushing yards per game.
The OL did still have its struggles, mainly in pass protection and blocking on screen passes, but it is still amazing to me that the offensive line that allowed Reggie Corbin to run rampant on Big Ten opponents was the same offensive line that the Golden Flashes handled soundly in week one.
And the good news is three of the five starters were sophomores and one was a freshman. Losing Nick Allegretti will be a challenge moving forward, but on the whole it’s hard to not get excited about the future of the offensive line.
Played in 10 games on special teams in his fourth year with the team.
Allegretti was a team captain for his senior season, and the leader of a young offensive line. He started in 36 straight games, and won the Big Ten Sportsmanship award for the second time in 2018. He was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team by the media.
Allegretti was everything you could want in an Illini. He played hard despite the continued losses. He was active in the community. He was a great leader for a very young team. He showed up every day and did the work and was also a damn good offensive lineman. He was a stout run-blocker, and was a steady presence for three years as a starter. Illinois fans should be glad they had him on their team.
He should get a look in the NFL. Being a draft pick is a possibility, but a lot will depend on the workout numbers he can put out.
Kendrick Green was the most inconsistent starter for Illinois at the left guard spot, which was to be expected as he moved to offense from defense after a redshirt season. He would often showcase his raw talent, especially in the run game, but would often be susceptible to missed blocks and penalties.
The talent is there and it was only his first year in college as an offensive lineman. I think with another offseason, he should take a step forward in 2019 and by the time he is a junior and senior, he could be one of the better interior lineman Illinois has.
Walk-on didn’t see the field in his freshman season.
For my money, Alex Palczewski was the most improved player on the team behind Reggie Corbin. After starting his career as a guard, he moved to right tackle and looked right at home. He is a strong run blocker and his taller frame and long arms fits better at tackle than guard. He is still in his second season so there were some young offensive lineman mistakes, but overall he was a solid player and a key part in the improved running game along with Nick Allegretti on the strong side.
He’s started 23 straight games and if he stays healthy, he’ll be a 40+ game starter for Illinois.
I love me a good center, and Kramer is a good one. He played all 12 games in the middle of the line for the Illini in his redshirt sophomore season, and there aren’t any major complaints to have.
He’s not a lineman that will ever wow you or stand-out in major ways, but he’s also never going to be a player you notice for bad things. Just as all good centers should be.
Slaughter has an A+ name and projected as a future starter, but we will see if it is at tackle or guard. He took a redshirt this season.
The walk-on played in four games this season surpassing some scholarship linemen in the depth chart in the process.
Martin appeared in all 12 games as a special teams player, but he announced he is transferring from Illinois after four seasons. He will be immediately eligible to play as a graduate transfer.
Looking forward to the future pic.twitter.com/a9BPhAlWma— Zeke Martin (@BigZmartin) December 1, 2018
Man, it’s really nice when you can actually redshirt your true freshman offensive linemen isn’t it? Myers is a huge man already as a teenager at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds. Illinois has a simple formula in offensive line recruiting: get them big and then develop them.
The redshirt sophomore and former top-60 OL recruit was a special teams contributor this season.
Trainer moved to offensive line from TE this season. He only played in one game, but was named to the Academic All-Big Ten honors.
Gavin appeared in one game in his sophomore season.
Boyd was the best of the freshman offensive lineman for Illinois in 2017 at left tackle, but due to some academic issues he was forced to take a redshirt this season.
The team is hoping Boyd can bounce back after this “redshirt suspension” season and kicked right back where he left off. He is the favorite to take over at RG from Nick Allegretti.
Lowe moved from RT to LT due to Larry Boyd’s suspension. He improved over his freshman season, but can still struggle at times with pass protection. He has the lateral agility and the strength. The ability is there, it’s just not there every single play. However, to be fair, most offensive linemen don’t even play until they are in their second or third season with the program and Lowe just finished his second. There were always going to be growing pains by playing such a young line, but the hope is it will start to really pay off in 2019 and Lowe and others will be better off for it.
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