CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois linebacker Isaac Darkangelo may be a name unfamiliar to a lot of Illini fans but he’s well known inside the Smith Center. The former walk-on earned a scholarship last season after transferring from Northern Michigan in 2020. Playing primarily on special teams last season recording seven tackles, the 6-foot-1, 230 pound senior is well on his way to finding himself in the linebacker rotation this season. He’s already established his place in the Illini locker room.

“Everyone’s going to get to know Darkangelo,” Illinois linebackers coach Andy Buh said. “I want to say that he’s a pleasant surprise but he’s not. He’s been here, he’s a dude. We consider him part of that starting core just because the playing ability he brings to the field. He’s one of our fastest linebackers.”

“It’s obviously huge,” Darkangelo said about his opportunity this fall to play a bigger role. “Every day I’ve got to keep proving myself. Nothing’s given, you’ve got to come out everyday and show what you’re capable of and you’ve just got to keep going and that’s for sure of us as a defense too, we’ve just got to keep improving every day.”

Darkangelo will likely see time as the team’s third best inside linebacker behind Calvin Hart and Tarique Barnes. Hart went down last year with a season ending injury in the opener, only playing three quarters of football but flashing his potential. Barnes was second on the team with 80 tackles.