Illinois football has done plenty to help the front lines in the transfer portal, and now we are bolstering our weapons in the passing game.
While Bret Bielema and his coaching staff have done a great job landing talented kinds from across the country, he has also knocked it out of the park when it comes to the transfer portal.
Coming into the weekend, Illinois had four transfer portal commitments. Kevin Wigenton and JC Davis both play on the offensive line, and Anthony Johnson and Enyce Sledge will hold down the defensive line for the Illini. These four help stabilize an offensive and defensive line that is in turmoil due to departures.
Bielema brought in some more help on Friday night. No, it wasn’t on the front lines, but it was help for likely starting quarterback Luke Altmyer in 2024.
Illinois was able to land tight end Cole Rusk. This isn’t just an ordinary transfer portal snag, though. Rusk was one of the best tight ends and players left in the transfer portal.
Transfer portal tight end Cole Rusk will help the Illinois football offense tremendously
Rusk is a 6-foot-6, 252-pound tight end from Rock Island, Illinois. Out of high school, Rusk was looked at as a sub-2000 recruit. He was rated as a three-star and ranked as the No. 2128 player in the class of 2021.
With few scholarship offers, Rusk picked Eastern Michigan as his landing spot. He redshirted in 2021 and then played in just one game for the Eagles as a redshirt freshman. After two seasons with Eastern Michigan, Rusk moved on to Murray State in 2023.
This transfer proved to be the right move for Rusk. As a redshirt sophomore, he had 39 receptions for 512 yards and six touchdowns. After the season, Rusk reentered the transfer portal with two years of eligibility remaining. On Friday night, the rising star tight end picked Illinois as his landing spot.
It is impressive that Illinois was able to pull in a caliber of tight end like Rusk. He was a four-star in the transfer portal and was ranked as the No. 126 overall transfer and the No. 11 tight end available. Rusk also had numerous offers including Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Tulane.
Rusk will help the Illinois offense a lot as well. It will be weird seeing a pass-catching tight end starting in 2024. This is something that Illinois has rarely had on the depth chart.
I fully expect Rusk to be starting from day one too. Tip Reiman was his biggest threat at the tight end position, but he departed the program and declared for the NFL Draft after 19 receptions for 203 yards and three touchdowns.
Illinois needed to fill a hole at tight end, and once again, Bielema came through with a big addition. Rusk is a home run transfer portal get for the Illini.