- Starter: Zy Crisler
I was impressed with the haul Illinois was able to bring in from the class of 2022. We snagged two great junior college offensive linemen from this class. The first one was Isaiah Adams, who I already mentioned. The next offensive lineman was Zy Crisler. The 6-foot-6, 330-pound, monster is ready to dominate the Big Ten.
Crisler should once again be starting at right guard. He joined the Illinois program in 2022 and started every game at this position. He also earned All-Big Ten honorable mention notoriety for his great season. I fully expect Crisler to have a big junior year. Don’t be shocked if Crisler sneaks up on some NFL Draft boards. The framework is there for this to be his last season in Champaign.
- 2nd String: Will Leys
The JUCO success Bret Bielema has had since taking over at Illinois will hopefully continue with Will Leys. He joined the program this season from Saddleback College in California. Leys was a three-star recruit who was the No. 108 JUCO player in the class of 2023. Since Leys has experience, I have him coming in and being the second-string right guard for Illinois.
- 3rd String: Joey Okla
The future is bright for the Illinois offensive line, as we have players like Joey Okla waiting in the wings. He joined the Illini from the class of 2022 and took a redshirt in year one. I think Okla is going to be a monster for the program, but he is probably going to have to wait another year. This season is likely about development and getting prepared for the future.
- 4th String: Clayton Leonard
What I said about Okla applies to Clayton Leonard as well. He also came in from the class of 2022 and took a redshirt. Leonard is a former three-star recruit who will help on the Illinois offensive line in a year or two. Hopefully, in blowout situations, Leonard and Okla can get some snaps in live game action.