5. DL TeRah Edwards
The Illinois football defensive line is fascinating to me. There was so much turnover, but Bret Bielema also did a great job adding new bodies to eat up snaps.
Jer’Zhan Newton, Keith Randolph Jr., and Denzel Daxon, the starting defensive line in 2023, are all heading to the NFL. Bryce Barnes, the No. 4 defensive lineman, ran out of eligibility. Sed McConnell, a rotational piece, transferred out of the program. That leaves Illinois with a lot of inexperienced defensive linemen.
The defensive lineman with the most returning snaps is TeRah Edwards. He played 189 snaps for Illinois last season and actually had the second-highest PFF grade of 72.3. But with being the No. 5 defensive lineman on the team, I think Edwards is going to have to fight for his job in spring practice.
I believe Illinois has at least three defensive linemen coming for Edwards’ job. We landed former four-star and current seventh-year senior Dennis Briggs Jr. out of the transfer portal. He finished last season with 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks for Florida State.
Illinois is also bringing in transfer portal additions in Anthony Johnson and Enyce Sledge who played for Youngstown State and Auburn, respectively.
Johnson finished 2023 with 23 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 4.0 sacks and is now entering his senior season with the Illini. I believe Johnson will likely get a starting job alongside Briggs. They should be starting on each side of the nose tackle.
I think Sledge and Edwards could battle it out for the nose tackle job. Edwards has more experience, but Sledge is a former top 1000 recruit and has a chance to develop under Bret Bielema’s leadership. Keep an eye on the defensive line in spring practice. There are a lot of unknowns right now, and things could get pretty interesting.