Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, August 22, 2017
Year Two of the Lovie Smith era is underway in Champaign. And there is plenty of work to do. Among the top priorities is getting consistent play at quarterback. And how will the lines play on both sides of the ball?
Here are five things I'll be watching at Illinois practice.
1. How does the LB unit look? This group is being rebuilt and needs to provide some playmaking ability for a defense with a lot to prove.
2. Is the offensive line getting a push? For too long, this group has not played with consistency or much physical punch. It is important for the front to develop so a strong rushing attack can be developed to take pressure off quarterback Chayce Crouch.
3. Is the defensive line OK? This arguably was the strongest area of the team last year, as it had talent like Carroll Phillips and Dawaune Smoot. The line needs to be strong vs. the run. And who will be the pass rushers?
4. How does Chayce Crouch look? The quarterback slot hasn't been a strong suite in Champaign for a few years. And Crouch has a lot to prove. He is a tough, gutty runner, but he can't keep exposing himself to potential injury. He needs to stay on the field ? and develop as a passer as he comes off a shoulder injury.
5. Is the secondary any good? This could be one of the better areas of a rebuilding program. The unit has some potential playmakers. Now, will the secondary get help from a front seven with a lot to prove?