Kickers and punters matter too, and the Illinois football team has proved that over the years with some great kickers and punters coming through the program.
Last season for the Illini, James McCourt took the reins and performed well. He was 13-of-19 overall including 4-of-5 from 50 yards or more. Let’s not forget that kick against Wisconsin too. The predecessor to McCourt was Chase McLaughlin.
McLaughlin was one of the best kickers to ever come through the program. He finished his senior year making every extra point and going 20-of-25 overall, which included 4-of-6 from 50 yards or more.
Illinois’ punter has also been amazing over the past couple of years. Blake Hayes came from Australia and has been an absolute field changer for the Orange and Blue. He also won the 2019 Big Ten Punter of the Year award.
Those three, among others, will be a tough act to follow. But could Illinois have their kicker and/or punter of the future coming from the class of 2021?
One option is Collyn Hopkins. I wrote about Hopkins in late November 2019 because he was coming up to Champaign for a visit. Well, it seems like that won’t be the last visit for this young talented kicker.
Hopkins told the Writing Illini that he was going to attend Junior Day at Illinois this year, but he has a kicking camp he has to attend. So, he has now been invited up during spring practice. But Illinois isn’t the only team vying for his commitment, though. There are other teams showing some strong interest in the kicker.
Toledo, Northern Illinois and Central Michigan have shown the most interest. I have visited all three and had in-person conversations with their specials teams coaches. I have visits set up for Iowa, Miami (OH), Illinois State and Drake. And there are a few other places that have not finalized schedules yet. I have set a visit to Indiana State as well.
There is no wonder why Hopkins is wanted by so many programs already. He is one of the best kickers in the nation. Kohl’s Professional Camps have him as the No. 45 kicker in the class of 2021 and the No. 37 punter. I would imagine more teams are going to be coming after this kid over the next year or so.
Illinois has a history of great kickers and punters. Hopkins could be next in line. This is a recruitment fans should keep an eye for the future.