The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illinois football hosts Toledo for 2023 season, home opener

Illinois (0-0) finally kicks off its 2023 season on Saturday, with the reigning Mid-American Conference champions heading to Memorial Stadium at 6:30 p.m. for an evening matinee. The Toledo Rockets finished last season with a 9-5 record, one more win than the Illini, that finished 8-5, but both teams will see some significant changes come game time.

The Illini lost their top passer, top rusher and multiple offensive linemen to the NFL and graduation. Replacing Chase Brown is no easy task in the backfield, but head coach Bret Bielema, now in year three at Illinois, has a plan.

“When we started fall camp, I’d say by far Josh (McCray) and Reggie (Love) have taken the majority of the reps with the ones,” Bielema said.

The Illini will most likely enter the year with a committee at the position, like they planned last season, before McCray went down.

Additionally, the Illini have a new starting quarterback. The transfer from Ole Miss, Luke Altmyer, is a sophomore who joined the program during the off-season. Altmyer will take over the starting role from Tommy DeVito, who graduated after one season in Champaign.

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Bielema spoke about Altmyer’s starting role after announcing the official QB1, and about the overall competition between the quarterbacks.

“Luke Altmyer will be our starting quarterback going into the Toledo game,” Bielema said. “Last spring and throughout this fall, I’ve been very impressed with the quarterback room in general.”

The Illini had two other quarterbacks competing for the starting role: redshirt freshman Donovan Leary and senior John Paddock. The overall depth chart at the position remains to be seen with who the backup and third string will be.

On the other side of the ball, the Illini defense still looks to be a threat. While the Illini lost multiple star players to the first two days of the NFL Draft, but multiple All-American caliber players return for Aaron Henry’s first year as defensive coordinator.

Junior defensive linemen Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. are back as the “Law Firm” and ready to wreak havoc on the Rockets offensive line. The star duo is ranked as one of the best in the nation in the front seven.

As for the Rockets, they are the favorite to win the MAC once again, and the Illini should not tread lightly despite the lower competition level. The Rockets scored roughly 31 points per game last season and gave up about 25, the Illini scored 24 points per game and gave up a measly 12 per game. The Illini defense did retain some star power, but the secondary will face a test with many new faces.

The Illini will be at home, however, and a rare night game for the fans could absolutely push even more momentum on their side. After a resurgent 2022, the Illini would love to build off that and experience the same success, if not better. For Bielema and his players, the mindset is to go 1-0 every week, and it starts with Toledo.

The Illini kick-off at Memorial Stadium at 6:30 p.m. CDT, with the game being aired on Big Ten Network.



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About the Contributor
Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor
Hello! I’m Adam and I’m a senior majoring in journalism. I’m one of the assistant sports editors, and this is my second year with The DI. I love to talk about sports, so if you have any questions or desire to talk about a random athlete from 10 years ago or why Messi > Ronaldo, contact me at my email below!
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