CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The Illini tight end room has nearly doubled in size, going from five to 11 players over the offseason. There’s plenty of options for the Illini this season, including key returners Daniel Barker and Luke Ford.
Barker led the tight ends last season, and was second on the team with receptions (19) and receiving yards (268). In 2019, Barker caught the game-winning touchdown catch at Michigan State, helping Illinois to their biggest comeback in program history.
“We just come out here everyday and do what we told to do, and go out there and give it everything we’ve got, give it 110 percent and just listen to our coach,” says Barker.
Ford was a highly anticipated transfer for the Illini, joining the team in 2019 but sitting out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. In his first season on the field, Ford only caught two catches for 15 yards. It wasn’t the way the 6-foot-6 tight end expected to contribute, but he’s learned a lesson of patience during his career.
“Being patient, it’s hard in the beginning, but once you just accept it, and you know that’s what you gotta do, you move on, and work through it,” says Ford.
With new additions to the room like Michael Marchese and Max Rosenthal, tight ends coach Ben Miller expects his group to contribute in a big way on the Illinois offense.
“Potential is great, but potential is nothing until the production part comes,” says Miller. “So they’ve just got to keep working everyday, and they could be a productive group for us down the road.”