Transfer portal delivers gut punch to Illinois football offensive line

The transfer portal has struck again, as the Illinois football team has lost its top player from the class of 2024
Illinois v Minnesota
Illinois v Minnesota / David Berding/GettyImages

While the Illinois basketball team is doing a good job combating the transfer portal, the Illinois football team is getting its butt kicked.

Coming into 2024, I thought the Illini were in a good position to build on the 2023 campaign. Bret Bielema seemed to have a good group of players come into the program, and they would be added to a developing young unit.

The last few weeks have been brutal for the Illini, though. The transfer portal reared its ugly head, and we are losing players at an alarmingly high rate.

I thought Jared Badie had a bright future at linebacker. Zachary Tobe had a good freshman season and was going to be an impact defensive back in 2024. Eian Pugh and Elijah Mc-Cantos were supposed to be impact guys this season too. I just named a few of the many transfers this offseason.

On Monday, the biggest transfer portal departure for the Illini took place. While the players mentioned above hurt the program, Allen Trieu of 247Sports reported that offensive lineman Andrew Dennis has decided to enter the transfer portal.

Coming out of Mt. Pleasant High School in Michigan, Dennis was a four-star recruit who was ranked as the No. 162 player in the class of 2024. He was also the No. 7 interior offensive lineman in the country and the No. 3 player coming out of the state of Michigan.

In the post by Trieu, Dennis says he wanted to be closer to home. So, now the former Illinois four-month player is likely heading back to either Michigan or Michigan State.

Illinois football is doing nothing to offset the big transfer portal departures this offseason

Losing Dennis was a big blow to the Illinois football roster. He was one of the best recruits this program has snagged over the past decade. He enrolled early in the program and was going to be a big part of this team.

I understand that the transfer portal is a part of the game now, but Illinois is losing a lot of talent to the transfer portal. The scary thing is, we aren’t replenishing that talent with transfer portal additions.

Bielema was able to pull in some good transfers after the season ended. I think we retooled the defensive line nicely, and the addition of Cole Rusk at tight end should give the offense a boost. But there were already more holes to fill before the most recent departures, and we are now further behind the eight ball.

Surprisingly, I am not too worried about the offense, although the offensive line could use more depth. It is the defense that scares me the most.

Illinois’ secondary was already thin, and it took some hits. My hope is that players getting healthy will be a big enough boost to improve the secondary. The linebacker corps is also pretty thin. We are going to have to rely on some young inexperienced players to stabilize that grouping.

I think the Illini are going to end up leaning on the offense a lot in 2024. If that is the case, Luke Altmyer better be ready. This is his team to guide to glory or to once again miss the postseason.

Projected Illinois basketball lineup after Niccolo Moretti enters the transfer portal. Projected Illinois basketball lineup after Niccolo Moretti enters the transfer portal. dark. Next