Counting down the 50 most important Illini
No. 24: Justin Hardee, wide receiver
Why he’s important: A year ago, Hardee was a defensive back. Now he is the only player on the Illinois squad who can boast about topping the 100-yard mark during the spring game. His six catches for 104 yards included an impressive 33-yard reception he pulled in on an underthrown ball by Reilly O’Toole. Hardee was a bright spot at times (namely the Charleston Southern game when he hauled in five passes for 99 yards) during his true freshman season. He finished the season with 17 receptions for 192 yards. He will wear No. 84 this fall after sporting No. 19 last season. Whether the new number presents a bigger production year from Hardee, he is permanently entrenched now in the wide receivers corps.
Fast fact: Hardee had most of the Mid-American Conference interested in his services. Until Tim Beckman got the job at Illinois. When Tim Beckman arrived at Illinois, a scholarship was waiting for the Cleveland native who prepped at Glenville, the same school that produced former Ohio State standouts Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr.
Tomorrow: No. 23