Expectations high for 2007 Illini football

By Jason Grodsky

There usually isn’t much hype around a football program that is coming off a 2-10 season and that has won just two Big Ten games in the last four seasons. But after brining in the best recruiting class in Illinois football history, head coach Ron Zook has people around campus buzzing about Illini football.

Coming off another lackluster season in 2006, the Illini enter the 2007-08 season loaded with young talent and a lot of potential.

The Illini will return nine players on both offense and defense, including sophomore quarterback Juice Williams and senior linebacker J Leman, and welcome the nation’s 12th-best recruiting class according to ESPN.com.

Among the incoming players for next year is the nation’s top-ranked defensive end, Martez Wilson (Chicago/Simeon), the nation’s No. 3-ranked wide receiver Arrelious Benn (Washington, D.C./Dunbar) and versatile big man D’Angelo McCray (Jacksonville, Fla./Jackson).

While most of the Illini’s incoming class won’t show up on campus until later this summer and next fall, Benn has already made his away to Champaign, graduating a semester early to join the team for spring workouts.

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Benn’s presence in the spring has already made an impact for the Orange and Blue squad. The athletic receiver was outstanding during the Illini’s spring game, collecting 187 total yards and a touchdown. Benn gave the Illini faithful a glimpse of what is yet to come, catching five passes for 145 yards and providing Williams with a reliable outlet he didn’t have in his first season.

With the offense on the upswing the Illini will look to veteran players Leman and senior defensive back Kevin Mitchell to lead the Illini on the defensive side of the ball. Leman led the Big Ten with just under 11 tackles per-game last season and will get the help he needs this season with the addition of Wilson.

With the addition of more talent and a new renovation to Memorial Stadium, the buzz around the football program is high, but only time will tell if the Illini can live up to the expectations.