5. LB Kenenna Odeluga
I believe the biggest weakness of the Illinois defense in the first two weeks was the linebackers. We were getting torn up by Toledo and Kansas in the middle of the field.
Bret Bielema and the Illinois coaching staff seem to be making adjustments to the linebacker corps. Dylan Rosiek only saw 40 snaps against Kansas, and that number was bumped up to 55 snaps against Penn State. He led the team with nine tackles and had 0.5 tackles for loss.
I think there could be another adjustment in the works as well. Tarique Barnes has had a bad season. There is no way to sugarcoat things. He is the lowest-graded Illinois inside linebacker on the team, and his coverage grade ranks among the worst in the nation.
Barnes’ snaps continue to drop as well. He saw 86 snaps in week one, 56 snaps in week two, and last week against Penn State, Barnes had 31 snaps. These snaps were distributed out, and one of the recipients is Kenenna Odeluga.
Odeluga had a chance to play 17 snaps against the Nittany Lions, which is a slight bump from the 13 snaps the week before. I think those snaps need to increase as well.
When Odeluga is on the field, he is effective. He is a big physical linebacker who has done a great job when given a chance. Through three games, Odeluga has the second-highest inside linebacker grade on the Illinois football team, and he has the best coverage grade.
The middle of the Illinois defense played better against Penn State, and that probably had to do with some adjustments made at linebacker. I think those adjustments should continue to be made. Give Odeluga more snaps.