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2018 Illinois Football Roster Preview: TEs

Rod Smith has never had a tight end like Lou Dorsey.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

To see previous roster previews, click here.

Rod Smith has never been a part of an offense that has heavily utilized tight ends in the passing game. It’s just not what the system is designed to do. Tight ends with the Arizona Wildcats and the previous teams Smith coached for were largely used as extra blockers and options for dump-offs and check-downs.

Seriously, check the stats for tight ends under Rich Rodriguez coached teams. Bryce Wolma with 28 catches for 248 yards last season for Arizona had one of the best seasons for a tight end. In 2016, Arizona only had two tight ends listed on the roster and they combined for 12 catches.

Now Smith is inheriting a roster that was built with using tight ends in the passing game in mind, which begs the question, how the hell is Rod Smith going to use Lou Dorsey and others?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great problem to have. The more weapons the better. Perhaps we will see them used more in play-action passes. Rod Smith loves to use his tight-ends as “H-Backs” and have them line up in the backfield between the guard and tackle on the strong side. That formation just screams wheel route to the weak-side off play-action.

Do it, Rod. Daddy wants to feel alive.

Lou Dorsey - #19, SO, 6’ 6”, 235 lbs

Lou Dorsey Receiving

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
12 22 395 18 3 77 32.9

Dorsey showed a lot of potential as a big play target in his true freshman season. Rod Smith has never had a player like Dorsey at TE, a player with this much pass catching and play-making ability.

Dorsey has put on some considerable weight this off-season, which should help with his blocking. He was seen as a tweener between a tight-end and a receiver coming into college, but him putting on this weight shows the staff is committed to him playing as a TE.

He will still line up in the slot — seam routes for days! — and out wide at times. His size and strength would be a huge advantage in those situations.

Dorsey is a player that Smith could be very creative with, and he could also be a player who helps Smith develop his own offensive identity outside of the “Rich-Rod” offense.

I want fun plays, Rod. Give me fun. Please.

Austin Roberts - #36, SR, 6’ 2”, 245 lbs

Austin Roberts Rushing

Year Games Att Yards Avg/Carry Td Long Avg/Game
Year Games Att Yards Avg/Carry Td Long Avg/Game
2015 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
2016 3 0 0 0 0 0 0
2017 12 1 3 3 0 3 0.3

Roberts is a useful blocker on offense, and could be a key player in short-yardage for Illinois in his final season.

Griffin Palmer - #81, SO, 6’ 5”, 245 lbs

Palmer only played in one game in his redshirt freshman season. He has great size, and a lot of promise as a receiver. We’ll see if he can take a step up this season.

Bobby Walker - #83, JR, 6’ 4”, 240 lbs

Bobby Walker Receiving

Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
Games Played Rec Yards Avg/Rec Td Long Avg/Game
12 1 7 7 0 7 0.5

Bobby Walker is the type of TE that has been valuable for Rod Smith in the past. Stocky players who can block well in the H-back role. He should fit in just fine.

Daniel Barker - #87, FR, 6’ 4”, 245 lbs

True freshman out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida — high school teammates with Jakari Norwood. He held offers from Pitt and Kentucky along with a number of G-5 Florida schools. Redshirt and develop.

Brandon Jones - #88, SO, 6’ 5”, 240 lbs

Jones didn’t see the field in his redshirt-freshman season. He started his career as a DE but was moved to running back last year, and now is listed as a TE.

Alex Pihlstrom - #89, R-FR, 6’ 6”, 250 lbs

Second-year walk-on from Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

Projected Depth Chart

  1. Lou Dorsey
  2. Bobby Walker
  3. Griffin Palmer
  4. Austin Roberts