I think it is pretty safe to say, the Illinois football team has one of the best players in the country.
It has been a long time since I have genuinely felt that the Illini had an elite talent on the team. We have always had good players, but heading into the 2022 campaign, Illinois has a nationally recognized player carrying the rock.
I am sure this was a great honor for Brown, but the star running back wasn’t done racking up national notoriety. On Wednesday, Brown made another list. This time it was the Doak Walker watch list, which is given to the best running back in college football.
Two huge lists in three days is a big accomplishment. You don’t just make these lists if you are an average running back. Brown is someone who could easily be one of the best players in the Big Ten and in all of college football.
Chase Brown has been special since joining the Illinois football program.
Honestly, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Brown is making these prestigious lists. This kid has been a great running back for the Illini the last couple of seasons. He is only going to continue to grow as a player as well.
I would argue there are two things over the past four years that really helped Brown get to where he is today. Beyond his talent and worth ethic, I believe transferring to Illinois was one of the big things that happened. Brown took his talents to the next level, and he is being recognized as a great player in arguably the best conference.
The other thing that I believe helped Brown is the hiring of Bret Bielema as the head coach. Lovie Smith was a defensive guy, and he would hire offensive coordinators who didn’t have a running back-heavy mindset. We would run the ball, but there wouldn’t be the consistency of using a running back.
That has changed with Bielema now pulling the strings. Illinois has a run-heavy offense, and we aren’t afraid to stack the line with big bodies who can block. Just look at the last two seasons for Brown.
In 2020 under the previous regime, Brown averaged 5.2 yards per carry and only had 13 carries per game. This past season with Bielema, he averaged 5.9 yards per carry and 17 carries per game.
Brown has been used more in the passing game with Bielema as well. He had just seven catches for 64 yards in 2020, but Brown over doubled those numbers to 14 catches for 142 yards this past season.
As a whole, Brown had 18.4 touches per game in 2021 compared to just 13.8 touches in 2020. He was more productive when he would touch the ball this past season as well. Brown averaged 6.2 yards per touch in 2021 compared to 5.4 yards per touch in 2020.
I am excited to see what Brown can do in 2022. He is still technically only a junior, so Illinois fans will hopefully be able to enjoy watching this great running back for two more seasons. But, with the way Brown is gaining national attention, this might be the last run we have with this talented running back. Enjoy his presence while it lasts.