Class of 2022 will put Illini’s passing game on track

Illinois football has had one of the worst pass offenses in the country for as long as I can remember.

Last season, the Illini averaged 156.2 yards per game in the air, ranking 121st nationally. Sadly, that has been a trend over the past six seasons.

Oddly enough, 156.2 yards per game is actually an improvement over the 2020 campaign. Illinois was throwing just 152.9 yards per game that season, which placed it 114th in the nation.

There has been a marked decline in Illinois passing attack over the past decade. In 2013, 2014 and 2015, the Illini were among the top 60 in the country for passing yards per game. At the height of that three-year run, Illinois was averaging 276.1 yards per game and the passing game ranked No. 28 in the nation.

After this 2015 season, the passing attack took a hard hit. In 2016, the Illini were ranked No. 111 in the nation in passing, averaging just 169.7 yards per game in the air. Since the 2016 campaign, Illinois have failed to land the top 100 passing yards per game. The best season of that six-year streak came in 2019, when Illinois was throwing 185.3 yards per game, ranking 102nd in the country.

Bret Bielema is doing whatever it takes to fix Illinois football’s passing game.

Illinois now has a new coaching staff, and they are putting their players in place to help this program win games and move the ball across the field through the passing game.

The talent that Bret Bielema and his coaching staff bring will help the passing game tremendously. We were able to hook Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito to help the quarterback’s situation in 2022. In 2019, DeVito threw for 2,360 yards, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. This is what I expect this season.

But it’s not just the microwave players of the Bielema era. The former coaching staff relied too much on the transfer to win ball games. This will not be the case this time around.

Illinois was able to sign five large receivers in the class of 2022. This group of pass catchers includes two of the top 800 rookies, Shawn Miller and Eian Pugh. The five wide receivers are quality players who will help this team through the first two seasons.

Bielema also brings two tight ends to help in the passing game. Owen Anderson and Henry Boyer are both 6-foot-5 or taller monsters that will be great targets in the red zone.

However, the Illini will need someone to get the ball to those pass catchers in the future. That’s why Bielema landing a quality quarterback like Donovan Leary is huge. Leary has the winning pedigree at the high school level, and that should pass through the college ranks.

Leary won’t be able to pass the ball if he doesn’t have time. That’s why Bielema landed six offensive linemen for the class of 2022. Those six hogs up front are going to play early in their careers. They will join a strong group of pass blockers already on the roster.

Illinois haven’t had a Top 100 game since the 2015 campaign. I’m ready for that to change. Bielema is putting the pieces together for this program to make a big turnaround in the near future. Trust the process.

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