Zakhari Franklin gives Illinois football a big-time playmaker from transfer portal

There was a lot of news going on Thursday night, and one big development was Illinois football landing a big-time wide receiver from the transfer portal
Ole Miss v Auburn
Ole Miss v Auburn / Michael Chang/GettyImages

Illinois football has landed a huge offensive weapon for the 2024 season.

It has been a really solid class of 2024 for the Illini. The incoming freshmen are going to make an impact early and often. There are numerous players who I think will be stars for this program.

I also believe the transfer portal has been huge for the Orange and Blue. Bret Bielema and the Illinois coaching staff identified what we needed for 2024, and they went out and filled the voids.

Illinois had the entire defensive line depart after the 2023 campaign. We went out and loaded up on defensive linemen in the transfer portal. The lllini needed offensive linemen due to departures, and the coaching staff managed to snag quality offensive linemen, which included one of the best transfer portal blockers in the country.

Bielema didn’t just look at the trenches either. He went out and was able to secure some serious weapons. On Thursday night, the Illini added another weapon to the arsenal. Zakhari Franklin took to social media to announce that he was committing to Illinois.

Coming out of Cedar Hill High School in Texas, Franklin was overlooked. He was only a two-star recruit who was ranked as the No. 2722 player in the class of 2019. He was also the No. 330 wide receiver in the country and the No. 379 player coming out of the state of Texas.

Franklin landed with the University of Texas-San Antonio. With the UTSA Roadrunners, Franklin blossomed into a great player. The talented wide receiver had 491 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman. He parlayed those great freshman stats into back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2021 and 2022. These two years included 27 touchdowns as well.

After his fourth season of football, Franklin decided to enter the transfer portal. He ended up landing with Ole Miss for the 2023 campaign. An offseason injury derailed his lone season with the Rebels, as he only had four receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown. After the season, Franklin again entered the transfer portal and is now with Illinois.

Illinois football quarterback Luke Altmyer has an embarrassment of weapons after the addition of transfer portal wide receiver Zakhari Franklin

I am pretty impressed with what Bielema has done this offseason to bolster the Illinois offense. We lost some key pieces with the departure of players like Isaiah Williams and Casey Washington, but I honestly believe we may have a better offense in 2024.

Illinois enters the season with, arguably, a better offensive line. JC Davis is a legitimate All-Big Ten offensive lineman for this program.

On top of the protection Bielema brought in, Altmyer is also getting some big-time playmakers. Illinois added a four-star transfer portal tight end, Cole Rusk. And now we have Franklin entering the mix as a player who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

Those are great weapons to add, and there are some emerging weapons already on the roster. Former four-star commit Malik Elzy is ready to take the next step in his career at wide receiver. Running back Kaden Feagin, also a former four-star, is going to be healthy and will be a workhorse for the program.

I don’t get to say this often, but the Illinois football team has a loaded offense. We are going to be a fun watch in 2024. Hopefully, that fun turns into wins.

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