On Tuesday August 14th, the Illinois fighting Illini Football team held another open practice during their training camp period, while getting ready for the upcoming season. There was a lot to watch for, as is typical with so many fresh faces when a new season begins, but these training period really allow us to look at exactly who could take a leap and become a household name this season.
Lovie and Co. had another good day with their young, talented squad, and the team didn’t disappoint the fans and media members in attendance, as Illinois showed off what could be the best top-to-bottom roster it has had in recent years.
Here’s some of the key things I noticed at today’s camp, for those of you that missed my breakdowns on Twitter.
M.J. Rivers had his best day thus far, after being rewarded with second team reps for today’s practice. He showed off his high arm strength that many Illini fans have pointed out recently from his high school highlights. Rivers comes into a quarterback race at Illinois that remains wide-open, and he certainly made his case today, completing on several deep balls and also on quick slant routes to all manners of receivers during both QB/WR Drills, and full-team offense/defense drills.
If Rivers can continue to build and get comfortable in Rod Smith’s offense, he certainly has the talent and ability to make himself a top-tier choice for the Illinois offense behind apparent QB1 A.J. Bush.
Rivers, however, has a lot of competition for the QB position, and will have to fight with, and likely surpass, the player who is the focus of the next thing I saw.
Matt Robinson, now an Illini fan favorite, continued Tuesday to showcase his abilities and make his case. From the start, Robinson really caught my eye. In QB/Receiver drills, Robinson showed off his accurate arm, completing both deep-ball passes on streak routes to speedy receivers like Mike Dudek, to corner routes from TE Luis Dorsey.
Robinson has really impressed Illini fans as of late with his ability to throw the ball, but Robinson also showed his running ability, on one play in a later drill, evading the sack from a defensive lineman, and scrambling for a fifteen-yard gain, and could easily have had more. Robinson, to me, looks like the clear-cut QB2 for this team that showcases one of the deepest Illini QB rooms in recent years.
I was impressed with Robinson today, even though Bush and Rivers got most of the time with first string units. He’s shown out through camp and will look to continue fighting for the primary backup spot, or even the starting spot, should Bush suffer a setback.
The Defensive Line showed out, and took the day from Offensive Line. The Defensive Line was matched up once again against the Offensive Line in today’s practice, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. The defensive line (in real-time drills) often got into the line of scrimmage and frustrated the offensive unit, taking sacks and tackles-for-loss at a high rate. The young defensive line is certainly a bright spot going forward, especially with the addition of one of my favorite freshmen, Calvin Avery.
The Illini Special Team’s Unit continues to impress me. As someone who loves watching special team’s work, the Illini have a great, talented group of kickers (and returners) this year. Blake Hayes continues his development, as his foot power is unparalleled to any that I’ve seen don an Illini uniform in some time. Placekickers like and Caleb Griffin continue to impress with their consistency in the position, and Coach Ligashesky’s unit will hope to thrive behind a new offense under Rod Smith and the newly-implemented offense.
Also, it’s worth noting the Special Teams performance, especially Blake Hayes, even “wowed” a certain legendary News Gazette writer who covers Illinois sports.
The team’s depth of quality the best it’s been in some time. It’s been a while since I’ve been to an Illini practice or early-season training camp where I could visibly not keep my eyes on one specific player, due to the large amount of talent on the field.
This year’s recruiting class brought in not only a solid stable of skill players, but with it the Illini also added depth and young talent at most of the positions. From linebackers to offensive linemen, the team is stacked with young, untapped potential.
The team looks fresh and ready to go for the upcoming season, and the sheer intensity players like Bennet Williams, Mike Dudek, and A.J. Bush (amongst many others) have shown throughout the early-season training camp practices points to a much-acknowledged fact: very few positions are set in stone.
Overall, Lovie’s team this year features a lot of positional battles, which bodes well for an Illini team that has for so long lacked the depth of talent that this year’s roster appears to have. With an already-booming Class of 2019 coming in next year, the staff will look to build this year, and have a seasoned core of sophomores and juniors to add to the special incoming class.
Lovie Smith and the Illinois Fighting Illini Football staff received another commitment today out of what is quickly becoming a flowing pipeline for the coaching staff from Florida. The Illini staff gained the commitment of yet another prospect out of the Sunshine State in defensive end Seth Coleman, from Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne, Florida,.
Coleman announced his commitment to Illinois on Sunday the 29th, continuing recent recruiting success for Lovie and his assistants. Coleman confirmed his commitment to Illinois during his weekend visit to Champaign.
Coleman is definitely a “style-of-play” recruit for Lovie Smith and company. This group of Illini coaches likes to use quick, athletic defensive ends to get into the backfield and disrupt opposing offenses. Seth Coleman certainly fits this bill. Coming in around 6’5”, 200 lbs., the defensive end utilizes a wide range of skills and natural physical ability to find holes in opposing offensive lines.
With a good sense of timing, and a great ability to read the snap count and get ahead of the offensive line, Coleman’s highlights are full of him breaking through gaps in the line, and using his great physical ability and quick burst of speed off the line to get to opposing quarterbacks. He will likely be utilized as a 5-technique rusher on the edge, used to get straight to opposing quarterbacks.
Coleman also has a great frame for Lovie’s ideal physique for the position, with long arms and good strength to get through tight gaps, into offensive backfields.
Coleman also is a highly productive player for his school’s basketball team, which can easily be guessed as he has great reaction times, and his highlights show multiple pass break ups, wherein he uses his long arms and quick reflexes to swat or bat down passes.
Seth Coleman has thus far been a bit under-recruited when it comes to power-five schools, and Illinois became the first power-five team to offer him in June, via a phone call from Head Coach Lovie Smith himself. Coleman also currently holds offers from fifteen schools, including offers from South Florida, Florida Atlantic, Navy, Ohio, and other Division-I Programs.
He also has had reported interest from schools like Iowa State, Tennessee, and Michigan.
Coleman is the first defensive end, and the first player from Florida to commit to Illinois in the 2019 class, and with the staff hitting the state hard, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more follow in the coming months.
The Illini continue their recent recruiting successes, as Coleman joins a class of top-tier talents Isaiah Williams, Marquez Beason, and several others.
Nate Williamson is a journalism student at the University of Illinois, working for illiniscoops.com, as well as Last Word on NFL. He is also the Co-Founder of TheSportsGuysSite.com…
Stay tuned into this site for more articles from Nate and the rest of our Illini staff, and make sure to check back soon for more interviews, breakdowns, and discussion from the guys!
Illiniscoops’ Nate Williamson (@NateJWSports) recently got to talk to Illini Freshmen and Offensive Lineman Jordyn Slaughter (@Slaughter66_). He sat down to talk about what it has been like getting accustomed to living life as an Illinois football player. He also asked him to introduce himself to fans on a personal basis, and about the progress he has made during his time with the Illini so far. Check out the full interview below.
– What is your favorite NFL team?
- New England Patriots
– If you were going to play any other sport in college of your choosing, what would it be?
Now, for the real questions.
– Want to share a little bit about where you’re from, where you went to high school, and how long you’ve been playing football?
- Well i’m from East St.Louis, IL. For high school, I attended Althoff Catholic in Belleville, IL, and I’ve been playing football for almost 8 years now. –
– What would you say are the strongest elements of your game on the offensive line, and what do you bring to the team?
- I think the strongest elements of my game are my pass blocking skills, and also my intelligence on the field to react to situations.. The biggest thing i bring to the team would be my leadership skills, even though i’m only a freshman.
– What first turned you on to Illinois, and made you know you wanted to be an Illini? What was the big recruiting draw for you?
- There never was one specific thing that really made me an illini fan, I’ve just always been a fan of them. I never really realized i wanted to be an Illini until i received my first offer, and then I knew I wanted to play there. The biggest thing that made me want to come here was the atmosphere on game day, and the experience of the coaching staff.
– Are you enjoying campus?
- I’m loving campus now even though it’s not the school year and everyone isn’t here yet
– What are you looking forward to most in your first season as an Illinois football player?
- The biggest thing i’m looking forward to this year is to finally experience what it’s like to be an Illini, and suit up for game day.
– Are there any specific guys you’ve started to get close to and form a bond with already?
- I’m pretty close with everyone on the offensive line and in my class and a few older players but not that many.
– Now, Illini fans know that you’re coming off of an injury a bit ago, hows the rehabbing going for your shoulder, and how are you feeling?
- The rehab is coming along great.. I’m making gains in the weight room which is good and also i should be ready for summer camp next week when it starts
– If you could say one thing to Illinois football fans ahead of the coming season, right now, what would it be?
- To stay committed to our program through the good and the bad.
Nate Williamson is a journalism student at the University of Illinois, working for illiniscoops.com, as well as Last Word on NFL. He is also the Co-Founder of TheSportsGuysSite.com… Stay tuned into this site for more articles from Nate and the rest of our Illini staff, and make sure to check back soon for more interviews, breakdowns, and discussion from the guys!
University of Illinois football fans were ecstatic to hear about two new commitments for the 2019 class, regaining some traction on the recruiting trail heading in to a pivotal Summer stretch that eventually leads to Lovie Smith’s barbeque, a recruiting event held at the Illini coach’s home. The Illini recieved commitments from in-state Wide Receiver Fabian McCray, and Linebacker Camilo Eifler, a former top-150 recruit and Washington transfer.
In-state recruiting remains a top priority for this Illini staff. Lovie and Co. wrapped up the 2018 recruiting class this year gaining the signatures of 10 in-state prospects. Though the success may seem limited, in Smith’s first full recruiting cycle, the Illini established a foot well-planted in the major areas of the state.
The 2019 class is looking promising when it comes to in-state recruits, and that trend continued this week when the Illini received an commitment from wide receiver Fabian McCray on Monday night, adding another player who will graduate this upcoming school year from in-state powerhouse Chicago Phillips, where Lovie has been hitting hard for players like Joseph Thompson, an Illini commit, and Jahleel Billingsley, perhaps one of the biggest “wants” for Illini fans from the pool of in-state talent.
McCray is a 6’2″ 180-pound Wide Receiver, who has been ranked as high as Top 10 in the state for the class of 2019. McCray was a 2017 state champion with Chicago Phillips, and brings to the Illini a desire to win, a mentality that Illini fans, as well as the Illini staff, have desired for so long.
In 2017, he hauled in 43 passes for 621 yards and seven touchdowns. McCray will contribute to the Illini receiving core bringing in calm, reliable hands and good route running. He could turn out to be the steady, go-to receiving threat that Illinois Quarterbacks of the future will look for in
times where they need a reception in the clutch.
The Illini also have had a lot of luck in out of state recruiting. As you’ve seen and followed here on illiniscoops.com, the Illini have gained commitments from 4-star Bishop Dunne (Tx.) Cornerback Marquez Beason, as well as 4-star Trinity Catholic (Mo.) Quarterback Isaiah Williams. That trend continued as Coach Hardy Nickerson landed a recruit in Camilo Eifler, a former Top-150 recruit that will transfer in from the University of Washington.
Though he will sit this season due to transfer rules, Eifler will be a large contributor for the 2019 season and beyond. He fills a huge need a Middle Linebacker for the Illini. The Illini football program, home to great linebackers including Dick Butkus, have been looking for the latest field general to add to the Illini stat books.
Eifler (6’1″ 225 lb.), is a former four-star recruit who was named in the higher-end of the top 150 recruits many times in high school at Bishop O-Dowd in Oakland, California where he played under now-Illini coach Hardy Nickerson. He redshirted the 2016 season and played in all 13 games in 2017 — finishing with six tackles — before announcing his decision to leave the Huskies in mid-May.
Eifler will no doubt fill the Illini need at MLB, in addition to a likely-to-grow linebacker core for the team, and ends the drought of high-rated linebacker recruiting for the Illini in recent years. He will look to spend this year familiarizing himself with the defense, and then be a big contributor come 2019.
You can check out more about Fabian and Camilo here on Illiniscoops.com, and through the Illini Scoop Podcast. Check back soon for more!
The city of St. Louis has been an area that the Illini football program has attempted to tap into for years but have been stumped by the likes of more prominent programs like Oklahoma and others. Last week, I interviewed 2020 Trinity Catholic HS RB Mookie Cooper and he spoke highly of the culture that the Illini staff is trying to instill around the program. Many fans are wondering, “What is the attraction to the University of Illinois?”
To begin with the obvious, it is the pipeline that Coach Cory Patterson brings from his time at TCHS. He has coached and seen each of these players grow and is even a father figure to most of them.
Secondly, the staff has a lot of NFL coaching experience and they will provide these young recruits with an opportunity to continue pursuing their dream of reaching the next level. This week, I interviewed Reggie Love who is a 3* RB recruit and also a part of the 2020 class. He has a total 14 scholarship offers currently, headlined by offers from Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, Notre Dame, TCU, and Wisconsin. I took sometime to speak to him about his recruitment.
AS: Why do you play the game of football?
Reggie Love: I always loved the game of football. The way I grew over the years really made me want to play football, specifically because of my body type, but 7th grade is the year I knew I could do something special with the football.
AS: What would you say are some of your strengths of your game and what do you think you need to improve on?
Reggie Love: I’m a down-hill runner. I have great vision, very explosive, and can play inside and out. I want to improve on my route running and catching the ball out of the backfield.
AS: There are a lot of great programs that have offered you. Which are the ones that stand out to you?
Reggie Love: TCU, Notre Dame, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa St, and Kentucky.
AS: Are you planning on taking and visits soon or over the summer?
Reggie Love: I’m going to be at Illinois next weekend and I’m going to try to visit most if not all the schools that have offered me.
AS: How was your last visit to Champaign?
Reggie Love: It was great, like always. I always feel welcomed whenever I visit there.
AS: How would it feel to play with your brothers from Trinity and your former head coach?
Reggie Love: It would be exciting to reunite and see if we can do what we did at Trinity at the next level.
AS: Who are some of the guys that you have been talking to about this?
Reggie Love: Isaiah and Bryce are trying to recruit us to come to Illinois everyday at school. They are the main guys that bring it up.
AS: Is there any program that you would say is the sole leader in your recruitment?
Reggie Love: Nope, still to be determined.
Trinity Catholic HS seems to be a life line for the Illini football program. Isaiah Williams and Bryce Childress are busy recruiting the Trinity blood line in the hope of building something special. They have both been in contact with Reggie Love and he is truly a passionate football player that will pour his blood and sweat on the field for whatever school he chooses.
I think Reggie will consider Illinois as one of his final schools, however, he might not be a lock as I expect his recruitment to continue to blow up this season. Either way, everything is looking up for the Illini football program and the Trinity Catholic HS connection.
Illini Tight End Louis Dorsey looks to catapult dynamic Freshman season into something special this year
Illinois has had several good tight ends over the years with a few still playing in the NFL. None of them, even including the great Ken Dilger, have the combination of size and speed of Duval county’s (FL) very own Louis Dorsey.
He displayed great hands on several occasions, but what stuck out to me was his break away speed. Linebackers didn’t stand a chance covering Louis and most of the times safeties were just as helpless.
Louis finished with 22 catches for 395 yards and 3 Touchdowns in his freshman season of 2017. He actually missed a game, as well, so those numbers for a freshman could be even more eye catching. By the way, he led or was second amongst all first-year tight ends in yards and catches, as well as yards per catch.
Louis deserved to be on the freshman All-American team alongside fellow Illini, defensive back Bennett Williams.
I caught up with the Jacksonville native during his break back home about his first year playing college ball and what he wants to improve this upcoming year.
In His Words – Louis Dorsey
- Adjusting from high school to college is never easy but adding weight training and demands at the highest level of amateur athletics can’t be easy. I wanted to know what was the most important thing Louis learned or took away from his freshman year in Champaign.
Louis Dorsey: “I learned a lot. College football is very different from high school. The game is a lot faster, so I gained a lot of football knowledge as in study film on my opponents and watching my practice film to see what I need to improve on. Also learning different types of defense and speed of the game.”
- Improving is part of success in any sport. Biggest leap players genuinely make are between first and second year. I asked Louis what area he wants to be more productive or improve the most.
Louis Dorsey: “I want to get better blocking. My blocking ability is definitely it.”
- I talk a lot about “Littyville” with recruits. Not so much with current players, so I asked Louis if he could sense recruiting momentum and culture changing for the better.
Louis Dorsey: “We expect to make a bowl game this season, and yes we can definitely feel the momentum. We are really close.”
- My final question was geared towards the coaching change of Garrick McGee and Rod Smith and the contrast of their different types of offense. I asked his feelings on the new wide open, fast paced spread Rod Smith will implement.
Louis Dorsey: “I’m very excited for the new offense. It’s built around the tight end for the most part. You’ll see me getting a lot of action this upcoming season.”
A lot has been made of Illinois missing out on “the big fish” at tight end in recruiting as of late. Luke Ford picked Georgia and it seems Jahleel Billingsley is leaning towards Florida. I always thought the former D1 basketball recruit could be dynamic pass catcher for Illinois. He is someone many are still over looking. Caleb Reams and newly committed Griffin Moore will help in other facets.
Illinois has good enough talent and depth at tight end to sustain success. Louis Dorsey could very well end up being an NFL player down the road. I know he has the drive and desire to be great while helping bring Illinois success in the process. At 6’6, 230 pounds and a 35 inch vertical, Illinois is prepared to unleash Louis Dorsey’s full potential.