clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Which Illini will break the 1,000-yard mark in 2023?

Big shoes to fill and a lot of yards to gain.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Minnesota at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before you continue scrolling down this blog, answer this question first:


How many Illini have crossed the 1,000-yard barrier this century?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    (48 votes)
  • 40%
    (58 votes)
  • 20%
    (29 votes)
  • 5%
    (8 votes)
143 votes total Vote Now

I want to preface this by saying that there's not much.

And in the last decade, the 1,000-yard barrier has only been broken 10 times.

And Chase Brown did it twice — and it took him 498 attempts.

The others were:

  • 2002 Antoineo Harris — 1,330 rushing yards
  • 2002 Brandon Lloyd — 1,010 receiving yards
  • 2007 Rashard Mendenhall — 1,681 rushing yards
  • 2008 Arrelious Benn — 1,055 receiving yards
  • 2010 Mikel Leshoure — 1,697 rushing yards
  • 2011 A.J. Jenkins — 1,276 receiving yards
  • 2014 Mikey Dudek — 1,038 receiving yards
  • 2018 Reggie Corbin — 1,085 rushing yards
  • 2021 Chase Brown — 1,005 rushing yards
  • 2022 Chase Brown — 1,643 rushing yards

And that's it. But that begs the question: Can the 1,000-yard barrier be broken in 2023, continuing the streak left by Chase Brown?

In all of college football, only 31 wide receivers broke the 1,000-yard barrier in 2022, 39 in 2021, and 41 in 2019. And for running backs, 39 in 2022, 53 in 2021, and 56 in 2019.

This will become even harder with rule changes that will make the game faster in 2023. The clock will no longer stop after a first down, meaning fewer plays will be run, reducing the chances a receiver or running back has to break the 1,000-yard barrier.

Illinois Athletics

With a new running back stepping into Brown’s big shoes, there will be missteps as the new back comes into form. I have been high on Jordan Anderson to be the breakout back this fall, but there will be a committee of backs to start the season: Anderson, Reggie Love, and 2022 backup Josh McCray. Whoever comes out on top will be the running back closest to the 1,000-yard marker. (Illinois may churn out two 750+ yard running backs in 2023, but that's another column).

So that leaves us with the wide receiving room — one that has me bullish on this season.

Returning, you have Isaiah Williams in the slot, Casey Washington as the X-receiver, and Pat Bryant as the Z-receiver. Right behind them, you have a capable group of sophomores and freshmen: Hank Beatty, Shawn Miller, Eian Pugh, Kenari Wilcher and Malik Elzy.

Williams is the easy pick to break 1,000 yards this year. He is growing as a receiver under Barry Lunney Jr. and making a name for himself as the go-to short down back. But he had 82 catches for 715 yards, and you can call me out on this, but that doesn't get you to 1,000 yards. You can get only so many yards as the escape hatch for your quarterback.

Don't get me wrong, Williams will have another strong year, but I would rather see him get a touchdown in the red zone than get 750 yards after contact on his way to 1,000 yards.

My candidate to break the 1,000-yard barrier is Casey Washington.

Illinois Athletics

While not targeted often, Washington has one of the surest hands on the Illinois roster. While he is an excellent run blocker, he has the physicality to make plays on the outside as the Z receiver. Washington can win those 1-on-1 battles against defensive backs and has the football IQ to know where the ball is at all times.

See for yourself.

Casey Washington, 1,000+ yards. You heard it here first.

Who do you think it will be?

66 days ‘til Toledo.