Illinois football just had one of the best seasons in the last 20 years, and now the roster is going through an overhaul.
The Illini lost a lot of talent from that eight-win campaign in 2022. Our secondary is depleted, our offensive line lost a couple of starters, and our starting quarterback is now in the NFL.
Bret Bielema and the Illinois coaching staff needed to have a great class of 2023 and transfer portal season, and they did just that. The Illini have so many newcomers entering the program. Most of them could see snaps from day one too. But I think there are a handful who will be the biggest instant-impact players.
Here are the top five instant impact newcomers for the Illinois football team in 2023
5. Dez’Mond Schuster
The Illinois offensive line took a hit this offseason. With the 2022 campaign concluding, the Illini lost two starting offensive linemen in Alex Palczewski and Alex Pihlstrom. Losing these two hogs up front will hurt, which is why I think the addition of Dez’Mond Schuster will be an immediate impact.
Schuster is a 6-foot-5, 330-pound offensive lineman who I believe could play both guard and tackle for the Illini. After playing his freshman season at Hutchinson Community College, Schuster wanted to take his talents to the next level. He entered the transfer portal and picked Illinois as his landing spot.
In the lone season with Hutchinson CC, Schuster would shine. He would end up earning first-team All-Conference honors. In the transfer portal, Schuster was the No. 30 JUCO player in the country and the No. 2 JUCO interior offensive lineman in the class of 2023.
With the departure of Palczewski, I think there is now room for Schuster to come in and, potentially, start right away. At worst, I think he earns a lot of snaps from day one.
On the front lines, I could see the starters including Julian Pearl, Jordyn Slaughter, Isaiah Adams, Zy Crisler, and then whoever takes over at center. Schuster is going to be looked to for depth and some starts in 2023. He is going to be extremely important if Illinois wants to move the ball up and down the field. I could legit see three or four starts out of Schuster in 2023.