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

Desperate Illini head to College Park for yet another test

James Hoeck
Defensive back Mac Resetich comes together with his running back teammate Kaden Feagin on Sept. 23 after defeating Florida.

Coming into the season with preseason predictions and lofty expectations set by the team, the season has yet to go according to plan so far for the Illini (2-4, 0-3). They have lost four of their last five games and the competition goes up from here, beginning with the Maryland Terrapins (5-1, 2-1).

Head coach Mike Locksley has ties to the Illini, as the fifth-year head coach was the offensive coordinator in Champaign from 2005-08. His first head coaching gig at New Mexico was a disaster after leaving the Illini, finishing his tenure with a record of 2-26 before he was relieved. Locksley eventually found himself under the illustrious Nick Saban at Alabama, where he revived his career and has turned around the Terrapin program in his second head coaching stint.

One of his first moves was bringing quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa over from the Tide. The now-graduate student has amassed 9,539 yards in College Park and has become one of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks. Locksley’s recruiting has been terrific, but Tagovailoa has aided the process, using his abilities to lure five four-star wide receiver recruits and transfers in the last two years.

The Terrapins are more than capable of airing the ball out, with four receivers surpassing the 250-yard mark through six weeks. A deep receiving core has the potential to hurt a young Illini defensive back group that hasn’t faced an offense like this all year.

While the defense is the least of the problems in Champaign at the halfway mark, the secondary is certainly the weakest unit. Sophomore safeties Demetrius Hill and Matthew Bailey went down two weeks ago, depriving the secondary of experience and depth leaving new guys to step in their place.

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    Freshman defensive back Zachary Tobe and sophomore defensive back Tyler Strain have already been thrown into the fire, with a couple of others receiving snaps along the way. The young secondary has had growing pains with penalties and the inability to lock down receivers on big downs, which the talented Terrapin group loves to take advantage of.

    Defensively for the Terrapins, they have struggled early in a couple of games. Twice, the Terrapins have trailed by 14 in the first quarter, but they didn’t lose either game. Only allowing 107 yards on the ground per game is the strength of the defense with some athletic guys in the trenches. This makes an unfortunate situation even more difficult for the Illini with sophomore running back Josh McCray out for the year, and junior running back Reggie Love III missing at least this week.

    “He (Reggie) doesn’t look good for this week,” Bielema said. “Central Illinois’ finest will be on full display on a bigger scale.”

    Without their top two guys at the position, the Illini turn to sophomore Aidan Laughery and freshman Kaden Feagin, both Illinois natives. Relying on two players with 203 total combined yards and one touchdown in their careers isn’t ideal in any game, but especially against a solid run-stopping group.

    While Illinois head coach Bret Bielema hinted there could be more offensive changes following last week’s loss, injuries will be the only notable differences. The Illini are confident the results thus far are not indicative of what this team can be and they’ll get another chance to prove it on Saturday.



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    About the Contributors
    Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor
    Hello, I’m Ben! I’m a junior at Illinois and assistant sports editor at The Daily Illini. I’m majoring in journalism and minoring in communications and recreation, sport and tourism. This is my third year with The Daily Illini, and I can’t wait to produce some amazing work. Feel free to contact me at my email below with questions or concerns, or if you just want to talk sports!
    James Hoeck, Photo Editor
    Heyo! I am James Hoeck, a third-year undergraduate student in photography with a minor in media. I have been a part of Illini Media for two years, starting back in fall 2021. I hold the position of Photo Editor here at The Daily Illini. I also work as Photo Editor for Illini Media’s Illio Yearbook. There is a good chance you will see me out and about on campus taking photos for my personal work or for The DI and/or Illio! If you want to check out more of my work, visit my socials linked below.