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

Illini secure 2 commitments early in offseason

A disappointing finish to the 2023 football season for Illinois football turned around quickly when it received multiple commitments in the first two days of the offseason. Three-star transfer outside linebacker Daniel Brown and four-star offensive lineman Andrew Dennis pledged their commitments to the Illini, giving the program tons of momentum heading into a critical winter.

Brown played his last two years at Hutchinson Community College, where he excelled. In 2023, the rusher led the NJCAA with 17.5 sacks in 10 games, on his way to being the No. 1 ranked Juco rusher in the portal. The defensive line is a position of need for the Illini, with Jer’Zhan Newton, Keith Randolph Jr. and Seth Coleman likely leaving for the NFL, and Brown beginning an offseason of replacements.

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior is explosive, relying on speed to get to the quarterback. Brown provides the Illini with quickness they haven’t had in a while, as most of the current linebackers are bigger. Gabe Jacas especially is a solid power rusher, so using his strength across the line of scrimmage from Brown could turn them into a lethal duo.

Brown had offers from plenty of Power Five schools but committed after his official visit to Champaign. Dennis also visited over the weekend, and the Illini were able to secure him over offers from Clemson, Michigan State, Penn State and others.

Dennis was initially expected to attend Michigan State and enroll early, but the Illini prevailed after the head coaching change. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound interior lineman is the highest recruit that Bret Bielema has secured during his tenure in Champaign, rated the No. 159 commit in the class of 2024.

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    A highlight reel full of pancakes can be viewed on Dennis’ 247 Sports page, showing the lineman’s raw strength. It is currently unclear, but if Dennis arrives in the spring, he will certainly be competing for a starting spot in camp on an inexperienced offensive line.

    The NCAA transfer portal opens up on Dec. 5, opening a period that is sure to be busy for Bielema and the rest of the staff. A lot more holes need to be filled, but the Illini are off to a great start with Brown and Dennis.

     

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    About the Contributor
    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!
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