Training camp starts today, so it’s time for one last pre-camp reading of the Illini Football Anxiety Meter! Today’s reading: Nervous, with Cautious Optimism!
Since we last checked in, the Anxiety Indicator has slid to the left substantially, and that’s largely down to two factors:
- Trevon Sidney has finally cleared admissions and has joined the team
- A recent run on 2020 recruiting commitments
It seems silly to have such a significant drop on the Meter come from a few 2020 commitments, but a few weeks ago it had been months since the previous one and targets I was confident about Illinois landing chose other schools. Recruiting is not just a barometer for the talent going forward, it’s also an indicator of how much fan-neutral parties such as high school players and coaches believe in the current staff at Illinois. So it was very encouraging to see CJ Dixon, Kevin Tyler, Blaise Sparks and Finnegan Schirmer announce for the Orange and Blue, and there’s plenty of reason to believe James Frenchie could join them.
That run on commitments really was a much-needed shot in the arm for Illini fans leading up to training camp, but the state of the program is ultimately going to be determined by this year’s record.
When you think about it though, there’s four games on the schedule where the Illini have a clear talent advantage. However, there’s only one team on the schedule that completely outclassed the Illini from a talent perspective, which is Michigan. Illinois has the talent to compete with seven of the remaining teams, to varying degrees.
Iowa and Northwestern are predictable teams that beat you with experience and discipline. By those measures, the Illini should be a much closer match adding a year of experience.
It’s hard to overstate how much I’ve missed having a talented AND experienced offensive line. What training camp will answer is whether or not the passing game can be competent enough to sustain drives.
I’m excited about how the defensive backs progress under Keynodo Hudson, but I’m also casting some preliminary skepticism on everything that happens in training camp because I’m still haunted by times the offense only looked great because the defense was awful, and vice versa. Yes, I’m specifically talking about the glowing reports out of Rantoul that Juice Williams was the very definition of a modern field general in 2009.
29 days until Akron.
If this Illini offensive line just comes out and blasts Akron up and down the field all day while the defense demonstrates a good knowledge of where they’re supposed to be, you’ll see that indicator get pretty close to the left end.