Illinois Fighting Illini vs #22 South Florida Bulls
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Score: Illinois (23), USF (47)
Notable Prospects Entering the Contest
South Florida Bulls
Quinton Flowers, QB (Senior): Throwing for 280 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception, Quinton Flowers answered the bell against a young Illinois defense led by former NFL head coach Lovie Smith. In addition, Flowers’ 106 yards and one touchdown on the ground was the straw that broke the Fighting Illini’s back. Flowers still faces questions as to if his skill set translates to the next level with his inconsistent ball placement across the board, but his playmaking ability is unquestioned. He is at his best when the play breaks down, but I would like to see him make throws from a clean pocket on a consistent basis. Illinois had no answer for the darkhorse Heisman candidate, but his NFL Draft stock remains unchanged. Stock: Same
Deatrick Nichols, CB (Senior): Deatrick Nichols remains as one of the most instinctive senior cornerbacks in the 2018 NFL draft class. He was able to break on a few passes with good closing speed and awareness throughout. The most memorable play of the day for Nichols may have come on a screen play to Malik Turner where he blew it up for a loss of two. The physical eye test does not play into Nichols’ favor, but he is such a fun football player to watch. Stock: Up
Devin Abraham, SS (Senior): Talking about undersized, intelligent football players, Devin Abraham is a ball of energy and explosiveness at the safety position. He is always in the right position, while also having the quickness and wherewithal to adjust his path when necessary. His instincts and processing ability gave him the opportunity to come down and provide a boost in run support for Charlie Strong’s unit. Stock: Up
Illinois Fighting Illini
Malik Turner, WR (Senior): Four catches for 27 yards is not a bad stat line for a normal player, but for a weapon like Malik Tuner, it was an underwhelming performance. In fairness, USF’s secondary is incredibly legitimate, yet that does not change the fact that Turner went invisible when the team needed him most in a catch-up game. At 6’3, I expected him to tower over some of USF’s undersized cornerbacks, but that matchup disadvantage did not even come into play. Stock: Down
Jaylen Dunlap, CB (Redshirt Senior): Dunlap was not 100 percent healthy coming into this game, but he showed the completive toughness and drive to get on the field to help his team. His strong, physical skill set as a tall cornerback prospect is intriguing, especially given these physical tools. However, I would like to see him get tested deep against stiffer competition before I move the needle on his draft stock too much. Stock: Same
Other Players that Flashed
USF’s Deangelo Antoine, WR (Redshirt Sophomore): Antoine’s explosive plays seemed to come out of nowhere Friday night when he took a jet sweep on the opening drive for 26 yards, following that up with a 39-yard touchdown catch on the next drive. He ended up with four catches for 93 yards, and his presence early in the game established his viability as yet another playmaker Lovie Smith had to worry about stopping.
USF’s Ronnie Hoggins, CB (Junior): Arguably the best option on the boundary for the Bulls is junior Ronnie Hoggins, who was able to stymie Illinois’ receivers on the outside all game long. His highlight of the game came on a 12-yard interception, leading to a USF field goal.
Illinois’ Mike Epstein, RB (Freshman): The lone bright spot on offense for the Fighting Illini was freshman running back Mike Epstein. Because of the game flow, Epstein only had eight carries, but he made the most of them as he rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown. In addition, he also added two catches for 27 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown.
Best Players on the Field
USF’s Quinton Flowers, QB (Senior)
The USF running game (376 total yards)
The USF secondary
Illinois’ Mike Epstein, RB (Freshman)
Illinois’ Malik Turner, WR (Senior)
The Fighting Illini’s front seven