Illinois Football: 3 Best, 3 Worst Offseason Developments

Matt CoanCorrespondent IIJune 13, 2011

Illinois Football: 3 Best, 3 Worst Offseason Developments

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    ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 4: A.J. Jenkins #8 of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini celebrates his touchdown against the University of Missouri Tigers during the State Farm Arch Rivalry game on September 4, 2010 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, M
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    After a pretty disappointing 2010 college football season the Illinois Fighting Illini are coming back with a solid team ready to make some noise in the Big 10.

    Illinois has some good returning players but also have a lot of holes to fill this Offseason and this summer will be a good time to fill them.

    Here are some developments, both good and bad, coming out of the Illini's camp this summer.

Bad: No More Mike Leshoure

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    CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 20: Mikel Leshoure #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs against the Northwestern Wildcats closes in during a game played at Wrigley Field on November 20, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. Illinois defeated Northwestern 48-27. (Photo by
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The loss of star running back Mike Leshoure will make a huge impact on Illinois next season. Leshoure left college after his junior year to play in the NFL and in doing so forced Illinois to try and find a back to take his place.

    Leshoure accounted for almost 40 percent of the teams offense last season and rushed for nearly 1700 yards.

    Illinois has a lot of work to do this summer in trying to find players to not only fill in for Leshoure at running back, but fill in for his entire offensive skill set.

    Illinois will need to find a new running back ASAP and work to develop the offense around him, like they did with Leshoure. 

Good: Improvement of the Offensive Line

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    CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Nathan Scheelhaase #2 of the Illinois Fighting Illini calls offensive signals as Randall Hunt #66 waits to snap the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    One thing the Illini do have going for them is their returning starters on the offensive line.

    Illinois' line is stacked with upperclassmen, led by senoirs Jeff Allen and Craig Wilson, and is going to have to be a strength of this team next season.

    The offensive line play is crucial to Illinois' success in running the ball and helping young quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase develop into a better passer.

    If the line can protect the Scheelhaase he will have more time to throw and more time to make better decisions in the passing game.

    The line should be consistent this season and be a strength of the team with so many returning starters. 

Bad: Trying to Improve the Defense Without Corey Liuget and Martez Wilson

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 03:  Linebacker Martez Wilson #2 of the Illinois Fighting Illini on the bench against the Minnesota Golden at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on November 3, 2007 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Illinois defeated Minnesota 44-17.  (P
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Illinois' defense struggled last season and will need to get better if Illinois is going to compete for the Big 10 title this year.

    The defense will need to fill some big holes after losing Corey Liuget and Martez Wilson and that is a lot easier said than done.

    Whoever ends up filling their voids will need to step up big and contribute to make up for the losses of the two great players.

Good: The Development of Nathan Scheelhaase

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    CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Nathan Scheelhaase #2 of the Illinois Fighting Illini looks for a receiver against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Da
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Nathan Scheelhaase had a solid first season as a red-shirt freshman and is only going to get better.

    As he develops in Ron Zook's system, Illinois' offensive will be able to become more advanced and more potent.

    A good run game and good offensive line play will be huge for the young quarterback's future development and with both of those areas most likely to be solid this year, things are looking up for Scheelhaase.

Bad: Many Holes in the Front Seven

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    CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Michael Buchanan #99 of the Illinois Fighting Illini waits during a replay time-out against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jo
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Along with losing Corey Liuget and Martez Wilson to the NFL draft, Illinois lost other key starters to graduation and left their front seven looking like Swiss cheese.

    The front seven in football has some of the most important positions in the game and without producing players in those spots, you are not going to have a good defense.

    It is key for Illinois to fill the holes on the front seven quickly and hopefully will leave their defense able to pick up right where they left off, at those positions, last season.

Good: A.J. Jenkins Looks Great

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    ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 4: A.J. Jenkins #8 of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini scores a touchdown against the University of Missouri Tigers during the State Farm Arch Rivalry game on September 4, 2010 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missour
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    A.J. Jenkins had a good junior season last year and with improvements at quarterback and on the offensive line, his numbers will only get better.

    Jenkins is going to be the top play maker for Illinois' offense this season and if Nathan Scheelhaase can get him the ball Illinois should be balanced enough to make some noise in the Big 10.

    Jenkins combined with the veteran offensive line and the developing Nathan Scheelhaase should make for a pretty good offense and a good season for Illinois.