5 Illinois football players who will battle for their job in spring practice

Sep 8, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini running back Aidan Laughery (21)
Sep 8, 2023; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini running back Aidan Laughery (21) / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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2. TE Griffin Moore

The tight end position hasn’t exactly been crucial to the Illinois football team. It has been this way for quite some time, but heading into the future, it does seem like a position of emphasis.

Illinois lost 2023 starting tight end Tip Reiman to the NFL Draft. He is trying his hand at the professional ranks after finishing the season with 19 receptions for 203 yards and three touchdowns. Next in line at the tight end position is Griffin Moore.

Moore just finished up his fifth year at Illinois, but he was only a junior. I believe he is still with the Illinois football team entering the 2024 campaign. Last season, Moore finished the year with 12 receptions for 161 yards and one touchdown. Despite being the leading returning tight end for the Illini, I think Moore will have to fight for the starting tight end job in spring practice.

Moore didn’t blow people away with his tight end skills, and he finished the 2023 season with a PFF grade of 57.0. I believe Illinois is bringing in some tight end talent that will push Moore for the starting job.

The tight end I am keeping an eye on for 2024 is the incoming transfer, Cole Rusk. Rusk was a sub-2000 recruit coming out of the class of 2021. He made a stop at Eastern Michigan before transferring to Murray State. This past season, Rusk had 39 receptions for 512 yards and six touchdowns for the Racers.

Rusk transferred into the Illinois program with two years of eligibility remaining. Out of the 436 teams in both the FBS and FCS, Rusk ranked as the No. 53 tight end in college football. That is an impressive feat.

At the end of the day, I would imagine Rusk wins the tight end job in spring practice. If Moore wants to take the reins, he will have to fend off one of the best tight ends in the nation.