This Saturday marks the first game for the Illinois football team in 2022 despite it being week zero.
To beat Wyoming, Illinois is going to need some players to step up on defense. Everyone needs to be on-point, but there are a few names that come to mind who I think will be crucial in stopping the Cowboys.
Here are three key Illinois football players against the Wyoming offense.
1. Johnny Newton
Illinois football has experience returning to the depth chart for the 2022 season. One of the most important players is defensive lineman, Johnny Newton.
Newton was a big part of the Illini last season. He played in every game for the Orange and Blue and started in 11 of those contests. To get a kid back with that much experience is invaluable to a team that needs to stop the run.
In 2021, Wyoming was one of the best teams in the country running the ball. They averaged 216.3 yards per game on the ground, which ranked No. 13 in the nation. Head coach Craig Bohl is going to bring that same style of offense to the game on Saturday.
With the Cowboys running the ball a lot, Newton is going to be an important player in stopping the Wyoming offense. Illinois wasn’t great at stopping the run last season, though. We averaged giving up 151.4 yards per game on the ground, which ranked No. 57 in the nation.
Newton is going to need to be on his game if Illinois wants to consistently stop the Wyoming running attack. He had 50 tackles last season, so Newton knows how to stop the ball. I look for him to be a dominating force not only this weekend but for the rest of the 2022 campaign. It shouldn’t be a shock that Newton is an Athlon Preseason All-Big Ten fourth-team player.