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The MMQB's Peter King noted Illinois DL Jihad Ward could be a dark-horse selection at No. 29 by the Cardinals.

King mocked Ryan Kelly with the pick, but it seems very unlikely that Kelly will still be on the board at that time. We have talked about Ward more often than any group of evaluators, but even a first round pick would be a bit of a surprise. Josh Norris has ranked Ward as a top 40 pick since the Senior Bowl, citing his outside to inside role that NFL teams might covet. Ward only started playing football in 10th grade, spent time at the JUCO level and finished his career with Illinois. He tested in the 34th percentile for defensive linemen.
Source: The MMQB
Apr 27 - 9:12 AM

Cal graduate ILB Hardy Nickerson Jr. transferred to Illinois.

This is a monster get for HC Lovie Smith and DC Hardy Nickerson Sr., defensive minds who are trying to turn around a ragtag unit. As for Hardy Jr., he wanted to be coached by his father in his last collegiate season. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play my final year of college football for my father," Nickerson Jr. said. Nickerson, a three-year starter at Cal, led the Golden Bears with 112 tackles last fall. Everybody wins big here except for Cal, which must replace an all-conference defensive leader after all the recruiting music has long since stopped.
Source: ESPN.com
Apr 22 - 5:30 PM

Illinois redshirt freshman RB Dre Brown suffered a left torn ACL and will miss the 2016 season.

This is a devastating turn of events for a player who missed all of last season with a torn right ACL. The three-star prospect in Illini’s 2015 recruiting class is now reportedly considering hanging it up. He had been penciled in as the backup to Ke'Shawn Vaughn.
Apr 20 - 3:25 PM

NFL Media's Lance Zierlein compares Illinois RB Josh Ferguson to Ronnie Hillman.

"Ferguson's ability to change direction instantaneously and create explosive yardage as a runner or pass catcher could make him a dangerous weapon in the hands of the right NFL team," Zierlein wrote. "Ferguson has the hands and route running potential to be considered as a slot receiver option to go along with being a change of pace back." We agree with that and see Ferguson as one of the very best receiving backs in this class; a pure role player, but a valuable one in the right fit. "Ferguson won't rack up a high number of touches in the pros, but he has the playmaking ability to make a game-changing play here or there," Zierlein concluded.
Source: NFL.com
Apr 13 - 5:52 PM

Illinois junior WR Mike Dudek will miss the 2016 season with a torn right ACL.

Dudek suffered a knee injury in a non-contact drill last Saturday. It turns out he tore his right ACL. This is the second consecutive season in which the 5-foot-11, 185-pound wideout has torn that ACL during spring work. He is expected to miss the entirety of the 2016 campaign. HC Lovie Smith addressed the tough blow on Friday, saying, "The game sometimes can be cruel. It's unfortunate. The guy worked himself pretty hard to get back in position." In a healthy freshman season back in 2014, Dudek caught 76 passes for 1,038 yards and six touchdowns.
Source: ESPN.com
Apr 9 - 12:22 PM

Illinois redshirt senior QB Wes Lunt indicated that he likes the direction the new coaching staff has taken.

Lunt was predictably uneasy when Illinois abruptly fired HC Bill Cubit and his staff early in March. He likes what new HC Lovie Smith has done in a short amount of time, though, citing a "plan they executed really fast." Noted the 6-foot-5, 225-pound gunslinger, "It was an up-and-down roller-coaster ride, but now we're on an even, flat line and ready to go. It's been as smooth a transition as it can be in the short amount of time it's been." For the 2015 campaign, Lunt threw for 2,761 yards (56.1% completions) with a 14/6 TD/INT ratio. Illinois finished with a disappointing 5-7 record and a distressing 2-6 record in the Big Ten. All the more disturbing, the team actually jumped out to a 4-1 record before the wheels fell off.
Source: ESPN.com
Apr 7 - 11:36 PM

Illinois HC Lovie Smith noted that junior WR Mike Dudek was held out of Tuesday's practice due to a knee injury.

While Smith acknowledged Dudek's knee injury, he did not ladle out further details. In fact, he used the opportunity to say that as a rule, he would not provide in-depth information on injuries. "I learned a long time ago that 'doctor' isn't in front of my name. I try not to be Dr. Smith a lot. If guys can't go, we hold them out. Spring of course you take every precaution," Smith said. Dudek tore his ACL last spring and missed the entirety of the 2015 campaign. As a freshman in 2014, though, the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder logged 76 catches for 1,038 yards and six touchdowns. With Geronimo Allison headed to the draft, Dudek figures to see a ton of offensive work this coming season. Assuming he can stay healthy.
Source: CSN Chicago
Apr 7 - 10:00 PM

Illinois WR Geronimo Allison visited the Texans on Wednesday.

TFY Draft Insider's Tony Pauline passed word along of Allison's travels. The team figures to be looking to increase the offensive firepower available to recent QB signee Brock Osweiler. During Combine testing, the 6-foot-3, 196-pound wideout ran the 40-yard dash in an uninspiring 4.67 seconds. He was able to trim almost a tenth of a second off that during his Pro Day, re-running the dash in 4.58 seconds. NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein questioned Allison's speed over the winter, noting that despite his toughness and effort in blocking, "his inability to consistently create separation" could hurt him come the draft.
Apr 7 - 9:34 PM

Illinois hired Northern Illinois WR coach Thad Ward to serve as RB coach.

New HC Lovie Smith's done a remarkable job filling out the Illini coaching staff in a short amount of time since taking over for Bill Cubit in early March. Ward's the last piece to the coaching puzzle. While he's spent the previous three seasons coaching up the receivers at Northern Illinois, he'll be shifting over to the running game with non-directional Illinois. In a statement, Smith said, "Thad Ward will bring a new level of energy to our program. He has been successful at each stop of his career, and is a proven recruiter."
Source: The Courier
Mar 21 - 11:23 PM

Illinois hired Indianapolis Colts assistant Andrew Hayes-Stoker to serve as WR coach.

Beyond HC Lovie Smith's kushy coaching credentials, one thing that immediately stands out is his loyalty. Since taking over the Illinois coaching gig in the wake of Bill Cubit's firing (and Smith's own firing from the Buccaneers), he's now brought along two members of his former Tampa staff. In addition to Hayes-Stoker--who worked with Smith each of the last two seasons with the Bucs--defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson has also been transitioned over from Smith's previous NFL staff. As for Hayes-Stoker, his lone previous experience as an on-field college coach came with FAU in 2013, when he served as RB coach.
Mar 14 - 6:50 PM

Illinois hired former Buccaneers LB coach Hardy Nickerson to serve as defensive coordinator.

Sports Illustrated's Peter Thamel was all over this story on Thursday, but the universe moves slow on occasion and the hiring wasn't made official until Monday. Nickerson and HC Lovie Smith worked together in stints with the Bears and (most recently) Buccaneers. Since firing Bill Cubit just over a week ago, Illinois' coaching staff has begun to come together with impressive speed. In addition to Nickerson's hiring, the Illini also recently tabbed Louisville's Garricck McGee as offensive coordinator.
Mar 14 - 4:38 PM

Illinois S Clayton Fejedelem "now looks like a lock in the late rounds," writes TFY Draft Insider's Tony Pauline.

Fejedelem "had a very good day" at the school's pro day event last week, Pauline added. The safety checked in at 6-foot, 204 pounds and completed 20 reps on the bench. Fejedelem added a vertical jump of 40.5 inches, a broad jump of 10-foot-1 and a 40-yard dash between 4.45-4.50 seconds. Ignored by scouts entering the season, Fejedelem knocked down the door separating mortals from the NFL with a tremendous senior season and an impressive Shrine Game week.
Mar 13 - 5:34 PM

Illinois hired Louisville offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Garrick McGee as OC.

McGee spent the past two years with the Cardinals after a two-year stint as UAB's coach. With the Fighting Illini having hired Hardy Nickerson as defensive coordinator, Illinois is the the only coaching staff in college football with a black head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator.
Mar 11 - 12:57 PM

Illinois will hire former Buccaneers LB and coach Hardy Nickerson as defensive coordinator, according to Sports Illustrated.

Lovie Smith continues to target old NFL buddies to fill out his first collegiate staff. Nickerson played 16 seasons in the NFL. Upon his retirement, joining the Chicago Bears' coaching staff in 2007. After a stint there, he joined the Bucs under Smith until that staff was dismissed in January.
Mar 10 - 11:05 PM

Illinois HC Lovie Smith said Monday that he hopes to finish his career at the school.

"I'm signing -- no, I signed -- a six-year contract. I'm not going anywhere," Smith said. "This is the start of the third quarter of my career. This is where I want to finish up my football career." The respected coach was canned by the Buccaneers in January after a 6-10 season. Though taking on one of the worst programs in the Big Ten, Smith doesn't seem concerned. "If we recruit the way I know we will, there's no rebuilding as far as I'm concerned," Smith said. "We're going to try to put the best football team we possibly can on the field as quick as we possibly can. Simple as that. And in time, whatever time it might be, we will be competing for Big Ten championships."
Source: NFL.com
Mar 7 - 8:28 PM


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