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Recruit and return: Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois finished the season 6-6 and made it into the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl, an improvement from its 4-8 season in 2013. The Illini have done a good job recruiting to needs and filling holes with potential immediate impact players to keep that momentum going forward.

Key losses: LG Michael Heitz, C Alex Hill, QB Reilly O'Toole, RB Donovonn Young, TE Jon Davis, S Zane Petty, STAR Earnest Thomas III, LEO DeJazz Woods, DT Austin Teitsma.

Instant impact freshmen: Illinois signed six junior college prospects at the mid-year signing period, which will be a huge boost to the team for next season. The offensive line will get a boost with tackle Jordan Fagan, the No. 13 ranked junior college offensive tackle, the No. 1 junior college center (Zach Heath) and the No. 6 junior college guard (Connor Brennan). All three signed and enrolled during the mid-year signing period. From the 2014 class, Illinois saw receiver Mike Dudek progress on the field this past season, and the coaches might see a similar impact from another receiver from the 2015 class, assuming the Illini can hang on to Texas receiver A.D. Miller.

Top 2015 recruits: Illinois landed ESPN 300 in-state offensive lineman Gabe Megginson, who had some big offers. Keeping Megginson in-state was a huge win for the program and will give the coaches a big body for the future line. Outside of Megginson, Miller from Texas and quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald are the next highest-ranked prospects. Fitzgerald dealt with an injury in high school, so it will be interesting to see how he bounces back, but he will enroll early to get with the team as soon as possible. The junior college additions can’t be overstated in this class, as the team needs immediate-impact prospects. Tight ends Andrew Davis and Ainslie Johnson, and running back Henry Enyenihi should be able to help next season.

Questions for signing day: Offense has been a big issue for Illinois, which ranked No. 80 in FBS in points scored per game, No. 102 in yards per game, No. 80 in rushing yards per game and yards per rush. Illinois needs explosive players and guys who can move the chains. With the junior college players and running backs Reggie Corbin and Dre Brown, will that be enough to push Illinois up to the next level. Time is not on their side, and next season needs to be a success.