5 big questions for the Illinois football spring game

It might only be April, but that means we get to see a glimpse of the Illinois football team during the spring game.
Illinois v Iowa
Illinois v Iowa / Matthew Holst/GettyImages
3 of 5

3. Does the Illinois defense line get settled?

I don’t know if I have ever seen an entire defensive line depart as we saw after the 2023 season. Illinois lost all three starting defensive linemen.

Jer’Zhan Newton is going to be a first-round NFL Draft pick. Keith Randolph Jr. will likely get selected later in the NFL Draft. I think Denzel Daxon will get some looks as well. These three anchored what was a really solid defensive line last season.

The Illinois coaching staff did a great job going out and getting some decent replacements for these talented defensive linemen. While we might take a step back, I don’t think it will be a huge step.

But who will end up being on the starting defensive line in 2024? This is the big question I think will kind of be answered during the spring game on April 20.

Illinois brought in two players from the transfer portal who I believe are near locks to start on the defensive line. Anthony Johnson out of Youngstown State and Dennis Briggs Jr. out of Florida State. These two will be on the ends of the defensive line.

Briggs had 14 tackles, 2.0 quarterback hurries, and 1.5 sacks in 10 games for the Seminoles last season. In 13 games in 2023, Johnson had 25 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 4.0 sacks for the Penguins.

I think it is safe to say that these two senior transfer portal players will start for Illinois. I am not certain who will be in the middle of the 3-4 or Nickle defensive line. TeRah Edwards is the incumbent backup at the position. He posted 13 tackles and 0.5 sacks in 2023.

Enyce Sledge, another transfer portal get for Illinois out of Auburn, is only a sophomore and didn’t see much time with the Tigers. He only played in two games and 11 total snaps.

Don’t count out the true freshmen possibly starting on the defensive line. Demetrius John, Eddie Tuerk, and Angelo McCullom all entered the program early. They might have a chance to make their mark in the spring game. Hopefully, we have a better picture of what the defensive line will look like in a couple of weeks.