CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The Illinois defense has been in tested in more ways the last two weeks than coordinator Ryan Walters wanted to ever see this entire season. The Illini have given up 79 points and more than 1,000 yards in the past two games, both losses to UTSA and Virginia.
The Illini (1-2) were expected to rely on their experience, returning 86 percent of their total starts on that side of the ball from a year ago, but so far it hasn’t paid dividends. Illinois is last in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing 481.7 yards per game, a number that ranks 120th nationally out of 130 FBS schools.
Walters blamed mental errors, players not lining up in the right positions pre-snap, technique issues and the lack of translating what’s practiced to the games as reasons for the early season struggles. Still, the first year Illini DC says he trusts his guys to work though the issues.
“Just keep preaching that they’re plenty talented enough,” Walters said. “They work hard, they prepare the right way. I still have all the confidence in the world in them and so again, this is a new program, we’re still all learning each other when it gets real and we’ve got to find ways to handle the adversity. One play can’t turn into three, four and then another series, that can’t happen.”
Illinois will be tested in a big way Friday night when Maryland makes its first trip in program history to Memorial Stadium. The Terps (2-0) are one of only two teams in the country to have a Top-15 total offense and defense, along with Auburn. Maryland is only allowing 235.5 yards per game (9th) and is putting up 535 yards of offense through two games, 13th in the nation. Kickoff is at 8:05 on FS1.