With the transfer portal window opening shortly, Illinois football loses two more

Illinois football is going through some spring changes, as we have now lost a total of five players to the transfer portal in the past week.
Illinois v Iowa
Illinois v Iowa / Matthew Holst/GettyImages

While the Illinois football team is nearing a highly anticipated spring game, there have been some departures via the transfer portal.

Usually, the transfer portal hits teams in the weeks following the conclusion of the season. That is when most teams feel the portal wrath. But the Illini have been dealing with some departures before the spring game that takes place on April 20.

A few days ago, I posted about three Illinois players departing for the transfer portal. Defensive lineman Dylan Davis, tight end Owen Anderson, and offensive lineman Joey Okla all wanted to find a new home.

These departures didn’t hurt too bad. Davis wasn’t going to play, Anderson was a third or fourth-string tight end. And Okla was probably a primary backup on the offensive line. The departures haven’t subsided, though.

Over the last couple of days, Illinois suffered two more transfer portal entries, and these were much bigger impact players.

Eian Pugh decided to enter his name into the transfer portal on Friday. He is a nice big 6-foot-4 wide receiver who took a redshirt last season for the Illini. We flipped him from Cincinnati in the class of 2022. My assumption is that Pugh is heading to Ole Miss. Illinois’ wide receiver coach George McDonald took the same role at Ole Miss after the 2023 season concluded. Look for that to be Pugh’s landing spot.

The other transfer portal entry Illinois had was defensive lineman, Anthony Johnson. We landed Johnson from the transfer portal a few months ago, and he is already looking for a new home. A member of the class of 2019, Johnson has played for Bowling Green, Youngstown, had a quick cup of coffee at Illinois, and is now on to his fourth team.

Should Illinois football fans be worried about the recent transfer portal hits to the roster

The transfer portal is a crazy place, and some people might start to get worried when they see how many players have entered in recent weeks. The transfer portal officially opens on April 15 and the window closes on April 30. Having a handful of players transfer is the new normal.

I would argue that the biggest thing Illinois fans should keep an eye on is if Bret Bielema can’t adapt to the transfer portal. He has done a good job of being able to balance transfer portal talent with incoming freshmen. There will always be departures, but can Illinois combat that with incoming transfer portal players? I believe Bielema can.

On top of that, there has only been one major transfer portal departure for the Illini in the past week. Losing Pugh I believe hurts the Illini offense. He was going to be a big target, and now we don’t have that option.

Beyond Pugh, I don’t think Illinois has much of an issue. My assumption is that Johnson wasn’t going to start, so he departed to find a starting job. While it might hurt depth, his departure isn’t something the coaching staff can’t recover from.

I wouldn’t be worried about the recent influx in transfer portal departures. This is all a part of the game now. Let’s see if we can play the game and snag a couple of incoming transfer portal players to combat the losses.

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