Illinois has many newcomers at Wide Receiver this season. Illinois has had some okay options at wideout over the last few years, but lacked depth. The Illini staff is trying to fix that for the future with a bunch of newcomers entering the fold, including both freshman recruits, position changes and transfers.
Unfortunately, transfer Shaedon Meadors was injured over the summer and will miss the entire year. This will be the end of his college football career, unless he is granted an additional year by the NCAA, but there has been no word yet on if he will attempt to apply.
Mike Dudek and Ricky Smalling will lead the group. If healthy, Dudek should be very productive in this offense, and Smalling could build upon his promising freshman campaign and take on a larger role in the offense. However, in this spread system, others will need to step up, and it’s unclear who may do that just yet.
Ricky Smalling - #4, SO, 6’ 1”, 205 lbs
Rickey Smalling Receiving
Smalling was the best deep threat for Illinois last season. He doesn’t possess blistering speed or great height, but what he does have is good route running and an amazing ability to catch the ball in traffic. He made some truly special catches last season.
Smalling only had five or more catches in a game two times last season, and he was a non-factor against the better defenses Illinois faced in 2017. A huge part of that goes down to QB play, but part of it too goes on Smalling being a freshman who is still learning and developing. He’ll need to work on being a more consistent factor each and every game, but he has all the potential to be a top WR for the Illini in the coming years.
Super excited to see what he brings this season.
Carmoni Green - #5, SO, 6’ 1”, 190 lbs
Carmoni Green Receiving
Green didn’t see much of the field in his true freshman season — I really question the staff burning his redshirt. He made his debut in game four against Nebraska, but struggled to make an impact and didn’t record a catch in the final five games of the year.
But Green still has talent, and there is potential for a breakout year for Green. Illinois needs someone to step up and take the X receiver spot, and it’s there for Green to take if he performs. He will have to play his way into the role and will most likely not be a starter in the beginning of the season.
Dominic Stampley - #6, SO, 5’ 10”, 175 lbs
Stampley is a townie who started his career in Junior College. He is immediately available to play for the Illini after his transfer and has three years left of eligibility. At the least he should provide more depth in the slot for Illinois.
Sam Mays - #9, SR, 6’ 3”, 200 lbs
Sam Mays Receiving
Sam Mays announced he was transferring from Illinois after the 2017 season, but he changed his mind and decided to stay with the program. Many expected a step up from him in his junior season, but instead he didn’t record a catch.
Perhaps Mays believes he’ll get a better shot at playing time under Rod Smith. Senior breakout campaigns do happen, like Miles Osei, and there will be opportunities for Mays if he plays well.
Carlos Sandy - #11, FR, 5’ 10”, 175 lbs
Carlos Sandy is a true freshman out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
I expect Sandy to see plenty of playing time in his freshman year. With Mike Dudek in his final season, Sandy is the heir apparent to take over the starting role in the slot. Reports are he’s looking ready to be a contributor based on his performances in fall camp.
Caleb Reams - #13, JR, 6’ 2”, 240 lbs
Caleb Reams Receiving
Reams has moved from TE to WR. I question the move on one hand because he doesn’t have the speed or quickness to get open on the outside against Big Ten corners, but on the other hand, he would be a fantastic blocker as a WR which is huge for the new offense that utilizes screen passes and jet sweeps often. Reams could be an unsung hero this year.
Trenard Davis - #15, JR, 6’ 0”, 195 lbs
Trenard Davis Receiving
Davis is a versatile player, who has played at QB, safety and WR, but the Illini have never really found the right role for him. Maybe that changes this year, but I have my doubts.
Mike Dudek - #18, SR, 5’ 11”, 195 lbs
Mike Dudek Receiving
Pray to whatever deity you believe in or make your proper sacrifices in order to keep Mike Dudek healthy. Do whatever it takes. Wrap him in bubble wrap to take him to classes, and have the offensive line carry him around campus. Inject him with ungodly amounts of HGH. I don’t care, just stay healthy.
I need one more awesome year of DUDE-k. Let me have this.
Justice Williams - #32, JR, 6’ 3”, 215 lbs
Justice Williams made the switch from linebacker to wide receiver — a posistion he played in high school — this offseason, and it looks like it may pay off.
He never found much playing time on defense and was used mostly in a special teams role. Now it looks like he could be a starter on offense based on his size and his performance at training camp so far.
Now this is just training camp, and we’ll have to wait and see if he has the route running and hands needed when the games are played. At the least, he will be a very physical presence and a willing blocker for the offense.
Zac Holman - #37, SR, 6’ 1”, 190 lbs
Holman is a senior walk-on from Australia.
Edwin Carter - #80, FR, 6’ 3”, 180 lbs
Carter is a true freshman out of Jacksonville. Illinois was his only Power Five offer. He has some good length and could be a good project player for the staff, but I wouldn’t expect to see much of him on the field. Most likely looking at a redshirt season.
Dylan Thomas - #82, FR, 5’ 11”, 180 lbs
Walk-on from Monticello, Illinois.
Jordan Holmes - #84, FR, 6’ 0”, 180 lbs
Walk-on from Columbia, Illinois.
Cam Stacy - #85, FR, 5’ 11”, 200 lbs
Walk-on from Park Ridge, Illinois.
Donny Navarro- #86, SO, 5’ 11”, 190 lbs
Navarro transferred from Valparaiso and will have to sit out one season. He is a walk-on for now, but he will be a contributor for Illinois in his career. He had a decent freshman season with Valpo with 539 yards and a 16.8 yards per catch average.
Navarro went to the same high school as Mike Dudek — Neuqua Valley in Naperville.
Projected Depth Chart
- Justice Williams
- Carmoni Green
- Caleb Reams
- Mike Dudek
- Dominic Stampley OR Carlos Sandy
- Ricky Smalling
- Sam Mays
- Trenard Davis