URBANA (WCIA) — Daniel Barker is one of the biggest skill guys on the field for the Illini and his personality is no different. It’s routine to see the 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end dancing or singing at training camp. His self-proclaimed ‘best touchdown dance on the team’ has been flashed several times during practice when he scores. And that’s a good thing for the Illinois offense looking to take another step forward after a breakout 2018 season under coordinator Rod Smith.
“I know I bring a lot to the tight end group,” Barker said about his solid play during training camp so far. “I have to be a leader for those guys, the young guys, and really just showing them the way when it’s their turn.”
Leading the tight end group is something he didn’t see coming in just his sophomore season. There is only one senior at the position and Barker is the only returning player with much experience. The Illini are also lacking depth without Georgia-transfer and 4-star recruit Luke Ford, who was denied his waiver transfer request by the NCAA. That means Barker is the go-to-guy at tight end.
“Daniel’s doing a lot of good stuff right now, he’s been making some big plays for us, running some good routes,” Illinois tight end coach Cory Patterson said. “I’m just excited to see what he brings coming into the season.”
A 3-star prospect out of Florida, Barker showed potential his freshman year, especially as a blocker. He caught nine passes for 84 yards and one touchdown. A year later, he expects better.
“Last year it was all running game, running game and I know we can prove more on the passing game,” Barker said.
As Barker continues to prove himself as a critical piece of the Illini offense, don’t be surprised to find him showing off those trademarked dance moves in the end zone this fall.