The Illinois Fighting Illini are entering a crucial year in the Lovie Smith era.
This will be Smith’s fourth as the man in charge in Champaign and his team is no longer young. All of the players Smith has recruited and brought in are getting older now.
It should be noted, though, that if the Big Ten West division was ever strong across the board, this is that year. Six of the seven teams — excluding Illinois — are picked to have 6/1 or better odds to win the entire division.
Illinois has 40/1 odds to win the West and have 225/1 odds to win the Big Ten.
With all of that known, Smith still believes in his team. He knows his team has experience. One of the guys bringing experience is incoming graduate transfer wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe. Imathorbhebhe was a former top-160 recruit coming out of high school.
Here’s Smith on Imathorbhebhe after Saturday’s practice:
“We’ve seen him with some big-play ability lately. Excellent speed, you know how high he can jump, how fast he can run. He’s made some good plays. We’re going to get a lot of one-on-one situations and receivers need to win that battle. Bhe-Bhe will win more than he will lose.”
Below is Smith’s entire conversation via Jeremy Werner at 247Sports: