49 days to Camp Rantoul

49 days to Camp Rantoul

Counting down the 50 most important Illini

No. 49: Carroll Phillips, LEO

Why he’s important: The defensive end, who is slotted to play the hybrid end/linebacker position Illinois has, could start by the time the 2014 season ends. He has the pass-rushing skills to do so, and while Dawaune Smoot had a solid spring before a lingering elbow injury caused him to miss the spring game, the starting LEO isn’t locked down yet. Houston Bates occupied this role last year before transferring to Louisiana Tech, but Phillips has the potential to create more of an edge rush. Which was certainly lacking at times last season with the Illini. Phillips comes to Champaign by way of Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Miss., where he compiled 50 tackles, four sacks, one fumble recovery and one interception last fall for a team that went 7-2. He did all that playing as an outside linebacker, but his main forte will center around how well he could get to the quarterback.

Fast fact: Phillips might have played against Illinois last season if his initial college destination worked out. The Miami native signed with the Bearcats in 2011, but didn’t qualify academically. That forced him to take the junior college route before he orally committed to Illinois a week before Christmas.

Last year’s ranking: NA

Tommorow: No. 48


No. 50: Clayton Fejedelem