Illinois Football: Pre-spring practice running back outlook for the Illini

The Illinois football team has a long history of producing talented running backs, and that trend isn’t ending any time soon.

It is kind of disappointing that we are losing our top two running backs from 2019. Reggie Corbin and Dre Brown are two players this program will never forget. But we have a nice stable of ball carriers behind them.

Current Outlook

Illinois is going to have a next-man-up mentality when it comes to the running back position. The No. 3 running back on the depth chart last season was probably Ra’Von Bonner, but I am not sure that will be the case entering spring practice.

If healthy, I would say Mike Epstein is the starter as of right now. That might be getting ahead of myself considering he hasn’t played a healthy season yet. But I think he is the best returning running back we have on the roster.

There are a couple of running backs I am interested in this spring too. I want to see the kind of jump Jakari Norwood and Kenyon Sims take. They could be solid players for the Illini program in 2020. Both are quick and can provide a lot of pop for this offense.

A dark horse I have for 2020 is incoming freshman Reggie Love. He is coming from the great Trinity Catholic program and could make an impact early. I see Love coming in this summer and doing some work.

Overall, I am not terribly comfortable with the current state of the backfield. There is some talent with Epstein, but he can’t stay healthy. I like what we have coming in, but they are so young too. And then there are a handful of question marks.

Future Outlook

I love the future outlook of the running back position. Yes, Bonner and Epstein are both seniors in 2020, but the youth movement we have coming is exciting.

Love is the future of the running back position for the Illini. He will be a true freshman this upcoming season. The fact we can have a top player like Love come in and compete right away will only be beneficial for the program.

I am also not counting out a few others I have mentioned earlier. Sims and Norwood are both going to be sophomores in 2020. They have a lot of time left in the program. I am also curious how Chase Brown will do. He transferred in from Western Michigan and should be a solid option moving forward. He will only be a junior in 2020.

Next: 3 observations from the Illini win over Minnesota

While there are a lot of question marks for the upcoming season at running back, I think the future is extremely bright. I can’t wait to see how some of these talented ball carriers develop.

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