Illinois football needs to retool the roster and put together a team that is going to compete for a Big Ten crown in 2024.
This is a hefty task for Bret Bielema and the Illini coaching staff, though. We already have numerous departures into the transfer portal. Thankfully, Illinois has snagged a solid transfer portal defensive lineman and has quite a few targets in mind.
I believe there are plenty of options available for the Illini in the transfer portal. Landing these players would be huge for the program and would continue making us competitive moving forward.
Here are the best transfer portal targets for the Illinois football team 1.0
1. Sebastian Cheeks
- Position: Linebacker
- College: North Carolina Tar Heels
- Hometown: Evanston, Illinois
- Eligibility Left: 3 Years
On Tuesday morning, a big player entered the transfer portal. Sometimes Illinois misses the first time around, but landing Sebastian Cheeks for 2024 would be huge.
Coming out of Evanston, Illinois, Cheeks was rated as a four-star recruit and ranked as the No. 148 player in the class of 2022. He was also the No. 14 linebacker in the country and the No. 5 player coming out of Illinois.
The Illini weren’t a true contender the first time around, so Cheeks ended up with North Carolina. As a freshman, Cheeks took a redshirt after playing limited snaps and dealing with an injury. This past season, he had a chance to lay in three games and had a total of 15 snaps on defense.
I would love someone like Cheeks who hasn’t been able to show his true potential yet. In the limited time he has seen on the field, Cheeks actually has pretty good defensive grades. Pro Football Focus has him with a grade of 78.3 in 2023, which puts him as one of the top 110 defensive players in the country.
Illinois also needs a lot of linebacker help. Tarique Barnes is departing. I like what we have in Dylan Rosiek. Kenenna Odeluga and James Kreutz developed nicely in 2023. I am also curious what Jojo Hayden can do next season.
With that being said, there is plenty of room for someone like Cheeks to step in and start from day one. Illinois needs a lot of help on defense, and he might be a great answer at linebacker.