4. Sacks per game – defense
In an earlier slide, I talked about how I want the Illinois football team to work on the opponent’s third down conversion percentage during the bye week. This can be accomplished by putting more pressure on the quarterback.
Jer’Zhan Newton has been incredible this season, but I think we take his talent for granted. Illinois’ defense has been sitting back and letting him eat, which is great, but it also means we are just putting pressure on the quarterback and not sacking him.
With a traditional three or four-man rush, Newton is able to get to the quarterback, but the quarterback usually wiggles out and attempts a pass. Actually getting to the quarterback is something I want Illinois to focus on this week. We need more sacks from the defense.
As of right now, Illinois’ defense is averaging 1.5 sacks per contest. That is bad enough to rank No. 105 out of 133 FBS programs. Sacks are game-changing plays that can turn momentum completely. Illinois needs more of those plays.
Again, I touched on this in an earlier slide, but Illinois needs to bring an extra man or two. Having the quarterback scramble and get free is something that kills our defense. Our defensive backs can’t cover wide receivers that long. The Illini have to start getting to the quarterback and bringing him down.
Illinois’ defense blitzed more in 2022. We need someone like Gabe Jacas to get after the quarterback more often. He had 36 tackles and four sacks last season. This season, he has 21 tackles and one sack with four games left. This week, Illinois should be working on getting the linebackers more involved in rushing the passer. We need them to cause chaos for our defense.