Illinois Football: 5 Illini freshmen who will make the biggest impact

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 13: An Illinois Fighting Illini helmet sits on top of a dryer on the sidelines during the Big Ten Conference college football game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 13, 2018, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 13: An Illinois Fighting Illini helmet sits on top of a dryer on the sidelines during the Big Ten Conference college football game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 13, 2018, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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ORLANDO, FL – JANUARY 03: Team Ballaholics outside linebacker Shammond Cooper (34) takes the field before the 2019 Under Armour All-America Game between Team Ballaholics and Team Flash on January 03, 2019 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL – JANUARY 03: Team Ballaholics outside linebacker Shammond Cooper (34) takes the field before the 2019 Under Armour All-America Game between Team Ballaholics and Team Flash on January 03, 2019 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

3. Shammond Cooper – RS Freshman – Linebacker

The young talent on the defensive side of the ball gives me so much hope for the future. Illinois is going to have a really good defensive in the coming years. One of the reasons for that is the fact Shammond Cooper is going to start taking a more prominent role.

Cooper was another great get for Lovie Smith and Illinois coaching staff. He was a four-star recruit who was the No. 286 player in the class of 2019 coming out of Trinity Catholic High School in St. Louis. Cooper even had a chance to play a little bit as a true freshman in 2019.

Illinois was able to play the talented linebacker in three games and he amassed five tackles on the season. Thanks to NCAA rules, the Illini were able to redshirt Cooper after the fourth game of the season, so it would save his eligibility. This enables him to return in 2020 as a redshirt freshman.

I could see Cooper being one of the two freshmen starting, along with Marquez Beason, this season. I have Cooper slotted in as a starting linebacker with Jake Hansen and Milo Eifler. The loss of Dele Harding will hurt this season, but Cooper should provide some help in replacing Harding’s production.

Along with Cooper, I see Khalan Tolson making a big impact too. Tolson should come in and spell minutes at the linebacker role. But I think it is time for Cooper to be the main man and start dominating on this Illinois defense.

The Illini have some special freshmen on the team, and Cooper is one of the best. He should make a huge impact for this program and be one of the best defensive players in recent memory.