Kansas football: Details Jayhawks fans need to know about Illinois

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JULY 26: An Illinois Fighting Illini helmet is seen at Big Ten football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium on July 26, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JULY 26: An Illinois Fighting Illini helmet is seen at Big Ten football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium on July 26, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Kansas football will take on Illinois football tomorrow night. We were given some valuable insight from an Illini expert.

It has been 54 years since Illinois and the Kansas Jayhawks have faced off on the gridiron, so individuals from both fanbases likely do not know too much information about their team’s opponent this week.

We at Through the Phog were fortunate enough to speak to the FanSided Site Expert at Writing Illini, Rees Woodcock. A longtime fan of the orange and blue, Rees is extremely knowledgeable about the Illinois football team.

In a pair of collaborative articles, Rees and I broke down five crucial aspects of our favorite teams. I think his responses will really help out the Jayhawk faithful. If you want to know more about what to expect tomorrow night, this is a must-read piece!

What Are The Illinois Football Strengths?

Rees: Coming into the 2023 campaign, I thought Illinois’ front six on defense was the strength of this football team. Week one against Toledo rattled that thought a bit.

I still consider the Illini defensive line one of our main strengths. This unit is led by preseason All-American defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton. He had a quiet first game, but I think he wakes up on Friday night. With Newton on one end of the line and Keith Randolph Jr., a preseason All-Big Ten player, on the other end, the Illini should cause some problems for the Kansas running attack.

I’m also going to add two sneaky strengths for the Illini. Our safety play was on point in week one, as Miles Scott earned co-defensive player of the week in the Big Ten. He was also the highest-rated safety by Pro Football Focus. His pick-six against Toledo changed the momentum completely.

New transfer quarterback Luke Altmyer is a strength for Illinois as well. Last Saturday was the first time I had seen in him action, and Altmyer’s accuracy was off the charts. He only had one mistake and that was trying to squeeze a ball into double coverage.

What Are The Illinois Football Weaknesses?

Rees: The biggest weakness that stood out to me from week one was Illinois’ inability to get off the field on defense. This was the case for multiple reasons.

Illinois held Toledo to third and seven, and the Rockets just threw an incompletion. An Illinois player was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and extended Toledo’s drive. That cost us three points. A few drives later, Illinois held Toledo to third and seven again. They threw an incomplete pass, but there was pass interference called. This extension of the drive led to a touchdown.

Allowing the opposing team to extend drives is a killer for Illinois. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, and it was the reason why Toledo had us on the ropes.

To piggyback off the inability to get off the field on defense, I would also like to add that Illinois’ weakness is penalties as well. We were one of the most penalized teams in college football in 2022, getting 6.8 penalties per game. That trend continued against Toledo, as we racked up 10 penalties for 100 yards.

Who Is The Most Dangerous Illinois Football Player?

Rees: I noted that Illinois has a preseason All-American defensive lineman in Jer’Zhan Newton. While he is a tremendous player, I don’t think he is the most dangerous player on the team.

If I had to pinpoint one player on the Illini who could change everything in an instant it is wide receiver Isaiah Williams. He is the most electric player Illinois has had in the past decade.

Williams had a solid week one with five receptions for 51 yards. While he didn’t have the most receptions, yards, or touchdowns, I still believe Williams draws so much attention in every game that it opens up other wide receivers for opportunities.

Illinois’ offense revolves around Williams. He is someone who can jet down the field and catch a bomb, or Luke Altmyer can toss it out to him on a screen and he can take it to the house. If Kansas isn’t prepared for Williams on Friday, he will tear them apart.

Who Is The Most Underrated Illinois Football Player?

Rees: I can’t really say safety Miles Scott because he is now highly rated by Pro Football Focus after week one. The player I am going with as the most underrated for the Illini is running back Reggie Love III.

All of the attention for Illinois after beating Toledo is on Scott, Luke Altmyer, Jer’Zhan Newton, and Pat Bryant, for good or bad. These are the main names that are getting the shine or blame from week one. But Love is flying under the radar.

Love had a quiet 12 carries for 63 yards this past Saturday. His 5.3 yards per carry is a solid number, and the only reason he didn’t get a touchdown is that Josh McCray hawked it from Love on the first drive.

I have been impressed with Love’s ability to find holes that aren’t there and to bounce the rock out and get yards that didn’t seem possible. He has great hips and can move around defenders well. Love’s speed won’t blow you away, but he has the ability to gain big chunk yards with relative ease. He is an impressive player whom Kansas should not overlook.

What Adjustments Does Illinois Football Need To Make Against Kansas Football?

Rees: As I noted above, Illinois needs to stop with the dumb mistakes. We can’t keep getting penalties called on us and extending the opposing team’s drive.

Allowing any team in college football a free football field of penalty yardage is going to make Illinois lose a lot of games in 2023. This better change quickly or Kansas will have an easy time with the Orange and Blue on Friday.

Illinois’ defense also got a little complacent with the Rockets. The Illini defense would only bring three rushers far too often, and this enabled Toledo to drop back and look down the field without feeling any pressure. When Illinois actually brought four or five guys in on a blitz, we would have the most success. I need to see more guys coming at the quarterback against the Jayhawks.

The final adjustment I would make is to trust Luke Altmyer more at quarterback. Illinois didn’t open up the playbook until the second half against Toledo. Altmyer saw the most success in the second half. Let’s open the playbook up and let Altmyer lead this team.

Next. 5 predictions for the Kansas vs. Illinois clash. dark

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