This group will be the backbone of the 2019 Illini football team.
It's the most talented, ready position on the team bar none.
That should be obvious the moment you watch Reggie Corbin juke someone out of his shoes. Or Mike Epstein toasting a linebacker for a huge chunk gain. RaVon Bonner bludgeons their beak. Jakari Norwood. Kenyon Sims. Dre Brown. The talent level is truly extraordinary. Top-3 Big Ten good.
A lot will be predicated on the offensive line play (which should be great, as long as it stays healthy), but this stable of backs should put fear into the hearts of many defensive coordinators.
Starters: Reggie Corbin, Mike Epstein
These two are conceivably indistinguishable from one another. Reggie has the elusiveness and vision. Epstein has speed, vision, elite cutting ability. Together they form a dynamic duo for Illinois.
The biggest issue: health. Epstein has yet to play a full season, or even half of one. Corbin hasn't had a serious injury yet, but you can never be too concerned as an Illini fan.
Fortunately, the drop off after these two is not a chasm. There's depth and talent to spare. It would be nice to see the potential of these two shine through and lead Illinois to bowl eligibility.
The reserves: RaVon Bonner, Jakari Norwood, Kenyon Sims, Dre Brown
These backs are reserves for a reason. However, they each have a select skillset that could truly benefit Illinois if Corbin/Epstein go down.
Bonner has slimmed down a bit from his freshman year, but he's still the team's battering ram. He runs hard, hits the hole, and doesn't mess around. He could potentially lead the Illini in rushing touchdowns. He's definitely in line as a short yardage back.
Jakari Norwood has that straight line speed you can't teach. Can easily get to the second level with a quick shimmy. He also has tremendous hands. He could even work in the slot some. A true burner.
Kenyon Sims has taken a nice sophomore leap and looks like a more complete back. Seeing things better. Stronger and faster. He a could be a starter somewhere, yet he's sixth on the depth chart here. That's remarkable depth.
Dre Brown is the guy people are rooting for. Constantly injured his first two seasons, Brown has finally gotten healthy for 2018-2019. His speed and cutting ability are elite for a fifth year senior. He'll make plays when given an opportunity.
The running back room will get even more crowded with Chase Brown and Reggie Love next year. Oh and I almost forgot Nick Fedanzo, who will likely redshirt and could be another weapon int the holster.
This is a great situation to be in. Let's just hope it leads to some wins and progress this season. For your indulgence...