Illinois Football: Pre-spring practice defensive line outlook for the Illini

The Illinois football team is known for their defensive line talent, but there are some questions about the front four this upcoming season.

Illinois has produced NFL defensive linemen like Jihad Ward, Corey Liuget and Whitney Mercilus. While those guys aren’t walking back through those doors anytime soon, the Illini do have some talent for this season and into the future.

Current Outlook

Six solid defensive linemen departed the Illini program after the 2019 campaign. The Orange and Blue will have some returning players for the spring, though. Jamal Woods, Calvin Avery, Deon Pate, Isaiah Gay and Owen Carney are all returning as upperclassmen. The underclassmen will be Moses Okpala, Keith Randolph and Seth Coleman.

The big question about the current outlook is, who will step up and cause havoc to the backfield of our opponents? Jamal Milan and Oluwole Betiku were Illinois’ best defensive linemen when it came to getting in the backfield. These two talented defensive linemen graduated, though.

Woods has the potential to be the best rusher on the team, but he has had some injury problems in the past. Avery also has potential, but he has had problems with game-shape.  Those two guys have a chance to do something special this year.

Illinois will have questions this spring about whether the defensive line can get pressure and if they can be consistent throughout the season. They did struggle with pressuring opposing quarterbacks at times.

Future Outlook

The future outlook for this Illinois football team is very bright. Illinois has some good young talent already on the team, and they have some coming in this summer. Coleman, Randolph and Okpala will lead the defensive line in the future.

Trevon Riggins, Johnny Newton, Cooper Davis, Quinton McCoy and Anthony Shipton are all a part of the class of 2020. These incoming freshmen won’t have to start right away because Illinois is going to be deep on the defensive line.

Yes, Illinois is weak at the defensive tackle spot. Some of these players will move from defensive end to defensive tackle. Lovie Smith and the coaching staff targets these types of players because they are so versatile. That versatility helps with injuries too.

Next: Illini lineup with Ayo Dosunmu & Kofi Cockburn returning

The current outlook for the Illinois defensive line is questionable. The future outlook is what excites me because Illinois has done a good job recruiting defensive linemen. All in all, I think Illinois is set to have a good defensive line for years to come.

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