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 Draft Scout College Football Player News: Illinois
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  05/19/21 - Artur SitkowskirJr/2023, Illinois, 6-4, 224 (DS#48 QB) + More +

  Art Sitkowski's college football voyage has primarily been navigating through choppy waters. Beginning June 1, he will join his new Illini football teammates for summer workouts and a much-anticipated fresh start and smoother ride. "It's definitely a fresh start," Sitkowski said. "I'm really excited for the opportunity presented to me, the people in the building at Illinois and the opportunity to compete. That's all I can ask for." A four-star prospect rated the No. 9 pro-style quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class out of IMG Academy in Florida, Sitkowski had many offers from which to choose.

In the fall of his senior season, he flipped his pledge from Miami to his home state school, Rutgers. He enrolled at mid-year so he could get assimilated and participate in spring drills. What lay ahead could easily have proven to be too daunting for anyone with less fortitude, self-confidence and competitiveness. Sitkowski was like most true freshmen football players asked to perform on a big stage at only 18 years old. Freshmen simply don't know what they don't know. "Words can't describe what that first year was like," Sitkowski said. "I didn't know what to expect overall, what to expect for a Big Ten game, how to go about preparing. Just the whole thing." - News Gazette Tribune


(DS#48 QB) rJr/2023 QB Artur SitkowskiIllinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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  05/09/21 - Brandon PetersrSr/2022, Illinois, 6-5, 220 (DS#7 QB) + More +

  Illinois will add a quarterback to that room (Rutgers transfer Artur Sitkowski) and lose a quarterback in that room (Isaiah Williams moving to receiver) this summer. Making it clear Brandon Peters is the guy for Illinois heading into the 2021 season. Not much different than it was prior to the 2019 or 2020 seasons, with the Michigan transfer acting as QB1 for the Illini when he's healthy. Sitkowski will likely enter training camp as the backup to Peters, but the 6-foot-5, 224-pound native of Old Bridge, N.J., should bring the same drop-back ability the 6-5, 220-pound Peters does, along with a solid arm.

Both quarterbacks who started their careers elsewhere in the Big Ten before arriving in Champaign, however, will need to improve their accuracy. Sitkowski struggled mightily as a true freshman in 2018, throwing 18 interceptions (including three against the Illini in a 38-17 win by Illinois in 2018 out in New Jersey) compared to only four touchdowns for the worst team in the Big Ten that season. Peters hasn't had quite the interception problems Sitkowski has had in his career - a respectable 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions during his stints at Michigan and Illinois. But he only completed 49 percent of his passes last fall, a dip after he completed 55 percent of his passes in 2019. - News Gazette Tribune


(DS#7 QB) rSr/2022 QB Brandon PetersIllinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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  05/07/21 - Isaiah WilliamsrSo/2024, Illinois, 5-10, 180 (DS#999 QB) + More +

  Isaiah Williams came to Illinois with the idea of playing quarterback. At a high level. He could have gone to any Power Five school to play wide receiver or defensive back. They all wanted the superstar athlete from St. Louis Trinity Catholic. But only Illinois said, "You can play quarterback." Former Illinois coach Lovie Smith promised Williams a shot to run his offense. And followed through by giving him starts during the 2020 season. The old staff hoped Williams could be a program-changer at the quarterback position. Williams showed his ability as a runner, gaining 389 yards in six games. It was the ninth-most rushing yards in a season by an Illinois quarterback.

But the passing part of the game is much trickier. Williams completed just 41 percent of his attempts. He wasn't the first Illinois quarterback to struggle with accuracy early in his career. Kurt Kittner hit 44 percent and Juice Williams 40 percent as rookies. Kittner and Juice Williams were the long-term answers at the position, becoming two of the best in school history. One difference between then and now, Kittner and Juice Williams didn't have a capable veteran like Brandon Peters in front of them. And they didn't have the ability to excel at another position. For Isaiah Williams, it is time to go to Plan R: Receiver. - News Gazette Tribune


(DS#999 QB) rSo/2024 QB Isaiah WilliamsIllinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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  05/04/21 - Josh ImatorbhebherSr/2021, Illinois, 6-1, 218 (DS#49 WR) + More +

  Even though Illinois receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe and linebacker Milo Eifler weren't selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, they still managed to find professional homes Saturday. Imatorbhebhe signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Eifler with the New York Jets shortly after the three-day draft's conclusion. The now-former Illini joined guard Kendrick Green (drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers) and cornerback Nate Hobbs (drafted in the fifth round by the Las Vegas Raiders) in cracking the NFL ranks this week. Imatorbhebhe started 18 games across two seasons at Illinois, hauling in 12 receiving touchdowns along the way. - News Gazette Tribune

(DS#49 WR) rSr/2021 WR Josh ImatorbhebheIllinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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  05/04/21 - Luke FordJr/2023, Illinois, 6-5, 250 (DS#14 TE) + More +

  Noah Ford couldn't make it out to see his brother Luke perform well during the Illinois spring game on April 19. Noah had a good excuse: He is in the U.S. Navy. "From what I hear, he's losing weight," Ford said. "Good for him." Noah has been in for six weeks. He is based in Rhode Island. "I'm proud of him," Luke Ford said. "I won't see him for a little bit. "I wish him the best. He might look like a different person when he gets back. Who knows." Ford's parents, Lisa and Tim, were in the stands at Memorial Stadium, watching Luke catch five passes for 88 yards, including a 16-yard one-handed touchdown grab from Isaiah Williams. "It was really awesome to have my family there and have other people in the stands, as well," Ford said.

We all knew Luke Ford could talk. The tight end entertains reporters with his wit and personality during every press conference. He started his latest Zoom call wearing a cowboy hat, but quickly switched to an Illini baseball cap. "I think it's more professional," Ford said. He performed like a pro in the spring game. After his efforts in the scrimmage, we understand what all the on-field fuss was about. Fans and the media weren't allowed to watch much of the rest of spring ball. But from the limited sample we saw, it seems obvious Tony Petersen's offense is tight-end friendly. "It's awesome to be a part of this new offense," Ford said. "My first year at Georgia, I caught one ball. My second year playing football, I caught two. If I really continue on that record, I have the potential to get four catches this year." - News Gazette Tribune


(DS#14 TE) Jr/2023 TE Luke FordIllinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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  05/04/21 - Nate HobbsSr/2021, Illinois, 5-11, 196 (DS#45 CB) + More +

  Nate Hobbs is the second Illinois football player to be selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, with the cornerback picked Saturday by the Las Vegas Raiders. Hobbs was drafted in the fifth round at No. 167 overall. His selection follows Illini guard Kendrick Green being taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday night in the third round. The 6-foot, 195-pound Hobbs spent four seasons at Illinois and made 35 starts at cornerback. Hobbs amassed 31 tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception as a senior in 2020. Hobbs concluded his Illini career with 168 tackles, 12 1/2 tackles for loss, one sack, three interceptions and 18 pass deflections. - News Gazette Tribune

(DS#45 CB) Sr/2021 CB Nate HobbsIllinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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  04/30/21 - Artur SitkowskirJr/2023, Illinois, 6-4, 224 (DS#48 QB) + More +

  Illinois football's quarterback room became a bit more full Wednesday when Artur Sitkowski announced his intention to transfer from Rutgers to the Illini. The 6-foot-5, 224-pound athlete has spent the last three college football seasons with the Scarlet Knights. After making 11 starts as a freshman in 2018, he made just four starts over the next two seasons while appearing in seven games during that same stretch. Sitkowski went 52 of 81 for 444 yards and three touchdowns passing during the 2020 campaign, losing repetitions to senior Nebraska transfer Noah Vedral and junior Boston College transfer Johnny Langan.

Sitkowski caps his Rutgers career having completed 230 of 422 passes for 2,031 yards and eight touchdowns. His freshman-year passing stat line was 134 of 273 for 1,158 yards and four scores. Sitkowski was recruited as a pro-style quarterback and gained three-star status by Rivals, racking up a laundry list of FBS offers that included Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Rutgers and Wisconsin. - News Gazette Tribune


(DS#48 QB) rJr/2023 QB Artur SitkowskiIllinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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  04/30/21 - Artur SitkowskirJr/2023, Illinois, 6-4, 224 (DS#48 QB) + More +

  Sitkowski's time at Rutgers was a wild ride. The heralded recruit started 11 games during a disastrous freshman season in 2018 where he threw a nation-leading 18 interceptions. He lost the starting job to transfer McLane Carter in 2019, then appeared in three games (two starts) before opting to redshirt following former coach Chris Ash's firing. Sitkowski briefly entered the transfer portal at the end of that season, but withdrew his name after Schiano's re-hire.

He then lost a preseason battle to transfer Noah Vedral last fall, but ended up coming off the bench to help lead the Scarlet Knights to two of their three wins, starting a pair of games. Sitkowski entered the transfer portal because he "just felt like he needed a different opportunity," Schiano said. "I had several conversations with Art. I'm very close with Art," he added. "We talked through it, and I just hope he finds what he's looking for, because he's a great young man. We'll miss him, but I'm excited about our quarterback room and where we are. I'm just kind of looking forward to it now." - Star Ledger


(DS#48 QB) rJr/2023 QB Artur SitkowskiIllinois
News Source: Star Ledger
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  04/22/21 - Brandon PetersrSr/2022, Illinois, 6-5, 220 (DS#7 QB) + More +

  Working with the starters in Monday night's spring game, Peters picked apart the reserves. He threw the ball long and short. To a bunch of different targets. Hard, accurate passes. The kind that put smiles on the coaches' faces. Early in the workout on a chilly night at Memorial Stadium, Peters hit Donny Navarro for 44 yards. Later, he found Khmari Thompson for a 29-yard touchdown. Peters hit 8 of 11 in the first quarter for 182 yards and finished 12 of 18 for 291 yards during the two-hour scrimmage. Might want to save that yardage for the opener. This is Peters' first spring practice at Illinois. He joined the team too late to participate in 2019 and last year's workouts got scrapped because of COVID-19.

The current spring session is important for Peters, who is set to play a rare sixth year of college football. This will be his third season at Illinois, which is as much as time as he spent at Michigan. Might be time to stop referring to him as a former Wolverine. After a much-less-than-satisfying 2020 season, Peters has a chance to finish with a bang in Bielema's first campaign. Having Peters back is a great deal for Bielema and first-year offensive coordinator Tony Petersen. Peters is a steady hand who understands the commitment needed to play at a high level in the Big Ten. Two years ago, he was part of a bowl team. - News Gazette Tribune


(DS#7 QB) rSr/2022 QB Brandon PetersIllinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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  04/22/21 - Luke FordJr/2023, Illinois, 6-5, 250 (DS#14 TE) + More +

  Luke Ford was more of a target in the scrimmage than he was all last season. Ford, who transferred to Illinois in 2019 from Georgia, grabbed just two catches for 15 yards in 2020. During the orange-and-blue game, he caught five passes for 88 yards, including a one-handed 16-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. "I appreciated Luke's effort," Bielema said. "I've seen his maturity level in everything he's doing. I really like his demeanor and work ethic. I think he's concentrating on what's important now. He's concentrating on being a good football player. You put in your time and you get rewarded for it. He's really bought in." - Herald-Review Times

(DS#14 TE) Jr/2023 TE Luke FordIllinois
News Source: Herald-Review Times
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  04/19/21 - Artur SitkowskirJr/2023, Illinois, 6-4, 224 (DS#48 QB) + More +

  Artur Sitkowski's roller-coaster Rutgers career has come to a close. The quarterback and Old Bridge native has entered the NCAA transfer portal. He has three years of eligibility remaining and will be able to play immediately at his next stop after the NCAA granted all athletes a one-time free transfer earlier this week. Sitkowski was a heralded recruit under former coach Chris Ash and started 11 games during a disastrous freshman season in 2018 where he threw a nation-leading 18 interceptions. He lost the starting job to transfer McLane Carter in 2019, then appeared in three games before opting to redshirt following Ash's firing. Sitkowski briefly entered the transfer portal at the end of that season, but withdrew his name after Greg Schiano's hire. He then lost a preseason battle to transfer Noah Vedral last fall, but ended up coming off the bench to help lead the Scarlet Knights to two of their three wins. - Star Ledger

(DS#48 QB) rJr/2023 QB Artur SitkowskiIllinois
News Source: Star Ledger
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  04/16/21 - Brandon PetersrSr/2022, Illinois, 6-5, 220 (DS#7 QB) + More +

  Brandon Peters' first senior season didn't go so well. He got COVID-19. Missed a big chunk of the games. Watched his team finish 2-6 and his coach get fired. In a word: Bummer. But thanks to some astute decisions by college football's higher-ups, the Illini quarterback has another chance to make a last impression. "I'm really blessed to have another year to play football," Peters said. "I'm really excited with what Coach B(ielema) is putting together here. It's been really fun so far. I think the sky is the limit with this staff." He is getting a mulligan. On a shanked shot that plunked in the water.

"That last year definitely left a bad taste in my mouth," Peters said. "Wasn't the year I was hoping for, anyone expected. Everything happens for a reason. I believe that." Peters is having fun playing football. That's the idea. "Guys are getting really good coaching," he said. "They're buying in." Entering his sixth college season in his fifth offense, Peters and the rest of the quarterbacks are spending the spring learning Tony Petersen's system. Peters and his main competition, third-year freshman Isaiah Williams, talked to the media Tuesday, via Zoom of course, for the first time this spring. Peters said he likes what he sees of Petersen and the new Illini attack. "He's really an attention-to-detail-oriented kind of guy," Peters said. "He brings juice. He's going to let you know when you mess up." - News Gazette Tribune


(DS#7 QB) rSr/2022 QB Brandon PetersIllinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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  04/13/21 - Jack BadovinacrSr/2022, Illinois, 6-2, 290 (DS#126 OG) + More +

  Bret Bielema's in-state recruiting push includes trying to draw graduated athletes to Illinois football from out-of-state colleges. It worked with Michigan State fullback/tight end Max Rosenthal, a New Trier product who announced his transfer to the Illini in January. And it worked again Thursday afternoon, when Loyola graduate Jack Badovinac announced via Twitter that he's committed to Illinois. The 6-foot-2, 295-pound offensive lineman has spent four years at FCS program Colgate.

Badovinac made 33 starts in his Colgate career, including in both of the Raiders' spring 2021 games. Colgate went 0-2 and experienced a pair of cancelations, including Saturday's scheduled contest with Holy Cross. Badovinac was listed at left guard in one of those two games' box scores. Badovinac twice made the All-Patriot League first team, as voted upon by the conference's coaches, and is a member of the 2010-19 Colgate All-Decade Team. Prior to his college tenure, Badovinac helped Loyola to the 2015 IHSA Class 8A state championship. - News Gazette Tribune


(DS#126 OG) rSr/2022 OG Jack BadovinacIllinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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  04/03/21 - Jack BadovinacrSr/2022, Illinois, 6-2, 290 (DS#126 OG) + More +

   Colgate offensive lineman Jack Badovinac committed to Illinois football on Thursday afternoon. The 6-foot-2, 295 pound offensive lineman started 31 of 34 career games for the Raiders and was a two-time All-Patriot League player, originally from Wilmette. Badovinac graduated from Loyola Academy, coached by former Illini John Holecek. - WCIA

(DS#126 OG) rSr/2022 OG Jack BadovinacIllinois
News Source: WCIA
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  03/29/21 - Owen Carney Jr.rSr/2022, Illinois, 6-3, 260 (DS#44 DE) + More +

  Owen Carney Jr. recognizes he might display a more intense personality than some of his Illinois football teammates. "I'm a serious guy because when I hit the building, I just put on my pro hat," the senior outside linebacker said Thursday, during a Zoom call with media members. "I just try to lead by example and come every day to work. So if that's the vibe you get from me, I guess I'm doing it right." First-year Illini football coach Bret Bielema can be plenty serious in his own right. But his wavelengths appear to be just a bit different from those emitted by Carney. "Coach B, about 80 percent of the time you're probably going to see him with some flip-flops on," Carney said. True to form, Bielema appeared at a Big Ten tournament sendoff earlier this month for the Illinois men's basketball team wearing shorts and flip-flops. "Every account I have of Coach B is very new," Carney continued. "He does like to play music in his office and just vibe out. Sometimes he has different moods. He has the mellow to him. He has the reggae to him. And, of course, you know he's always going to wear his flip-flops." - News Gazette Tribune

(DS#44 DE) rSr/2022 DE Owen Carney Jr.Illinois
News Source: News Gazette Tribune
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