Players To Watch: Illinois Fighting Illini
The Illinois Fighting Illini will be coming into Beaver Stadium Halloween afternoon trying turn their program around. After an impressive start to the season, interim head coach Bill Cubit’s squad has lost three of their last five games. They rank within the top ten of the Big Ten in both scoring offense and defense while also holding the third best passing offense in the conference. The story is a different one when it comes to rushing the ball. Illinois is ranked last in rushing offense in the conference, despite the consistent play of their highly touted freshman in the backfield.
Here are some Illini players Penn State fans should be aware of for this weekends Big Ten matchup.
No. 12 Wes Lunt, QB
Quarterback Wes Lunt is an interesting quarterback to scout. He’s certainly not the best option around, sitting at 92nd amongst FBS quarterbacks in completion percentage at 57.2 percent. His throwing motion is an easy looking one, but it’s more of what we call a three-quarter-arm slot motion, which is somewhere between a sidearm and a typical overhand passing motion.
He also commands the pocket fairly well and brings decent presence. While he is considered a “typical pocket passer”, his feet are never still. That’s a characteristic we see in a guy like Aaron Rodgers. While Wes Lunt is one of the furthest things from Aaron Rodgers, he’s got some of those qualities that make him a decent college quarterback.
No. 8 Geronimo Allison, WR
Geronimo Allison is one of Illinois’s biggest offensive weapons in recent memory. After ranking as one of the Big Ten’s best wide receivers last season, Allison is on track to crush his junior season stats. Allison is going to be your prototypical go-route, deep ball receiver with excellent hands and ball control. His deceptive double and inside moves help him gain a quick advantage off the line of scrimmage. Unless the Illini are in the red zone, don’t expect to see any crossing or hitch routes from Allison. Every ball will be placed down the field for him to go up and get.
No. 3 Taylor Barton, CB
Taylor Barton started out the season strong for Illinois, but has since cooled off a bit. While he’s still tied for second in the Big Ten in interceptions, he hasn’t pulled one down in over a month. Despite his recent slump, he still ranks high in passes defended and puts up consistent tackling numbers on a weekly basis. If Saquon Barkley gets into the secondary, he’ll be wanting to avoid the strong tackling Barton.
No. 91 Dawuane Smoot, DE
Dawuane Smoot is using his incredible raw ability to become one of the conference’s breakout defenders this season. He’s seventh in sacks, sixth in sack yardage, and ranks as one of the best defenders when it comes to tackles for loss. After working hard to gain weight in the offseason, Smoot still has that special quickness and twitch that make him such a dangerous pass rusher. The Nittany Lions offensive line will certainly be watching out for Illinois’ LEO coming off the edge on Saturday.
No. 5 Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB
It’ll be a battle of the freshman running backs in Beaver Stadium this week. While Ke’Shawn Vaughn may not be as dynamic as Saquon Barkley, his production in recent weeks has been a welcoming sign for the Fighting Illini. Despite not having a 100 rushing yard game this season, Vaughn has scored three touchdowns in his last four games. A highly touted four-star recruit out of high school, Vaughn will surely draw the attention of the Penn State defense with his aggressive running style.
George Stockburger is a junior majoring in journalism with a focus in broadcasting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org