After an eight-win campaign, the Illinois football program has some work to do on the offensive line.
The Illini had the program’s best season since the Rose Bowl run in the late 2000s. It had been a long time since we have seen that many wins and the success had a lot to do with the offensive line.
Quarterback Tommy DeVito was able to be the most accurate passer in a single season in Illinois history. Running back Chase Brown had one of the best seasons we have ever seen and was in the discussion for the Heisman Trophy for a minute. These two things couldn’t be achieved without a great offensive line.
For the 2023 campaign, the Illini are getting back multiple offensive linemen. One of those blockers, Isaiah Adams, looks to be one of the best returning offensive linemen in the Big Ten.
According to Pro Football Focus, Adams ranks No. 9 among the highest-graded offensive linemen returning in the Big Ten. He has a grade of 75.2, which is just 0.8 away from being ranked in the top five.
Illinois football has some patchwork to do with the offensive line for the 2023 season
Adams returning and being graded as one of the best offensive linemen returning in the Big Ten is fantastic. Illinois is going to lean on Adams a lot in 2023, especially with a few holes in the offensive line as we speak.
There are three offensive linemen who are locks to start for the Illinois football team in 2023. Adams, Zy Crisler, and Julian Pearl will be starting in every game they are healthy. Those three are unquestionably the best we have on the offensive line right now. The big question is, who will fill in the other two starting spots, and what does the depth look like?
I think Pearl enters 2023 as the starting left tackle. He is looked at as a top offensive tackle in the 2024 NFL Draft as well. Pearl started in 12 games for the Illini last season.
Crisler will be the Illinois starting right guard in 2023. He started in every game at this position for the Illini last season.
While Adams started 12 games at left guard, I see him moving over to be the other starting tackle for Illinois. He did start one game in 2023 at tackle, and this position is a crucial need for the program.
So, that leaves left guard and center as two holes that need to be filled. I am comfortable moving Adams to right tackle because I think Jordyn Slaughter is ready to start at left guard. Illinois doesn’t miss a beat if this switch happens.
At center, I think it is time to see what Josh Kreutz can do. He has the center blood in him, and he played well in spring practice. That is who I have pegged as the starting center in 2023.
So, the starting offensive line should look like this; LT Pearl, LG Slaughter, C Kreutz, RG Crisler, RT Adams.
Behind these five, there are a lot of unproven commodities. Illinois is bringing in two junior college players in Dez’Mond Schuster and Will Leys. They have at least had some playing time. The rest should be filled in with sophomores and freshmen.
The players that pique my interest the most include Magnus Moller, Joey Okla, Zachary Barlev, and Hunter Whitenack. They are going to be crucial as depth pieces this season.