26 days to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini.
No. 26: Austin Schmidt, OL
Why he’s important: Has the opportunity, if he performs, to fill the right tackle slot. The sophomore from Galena, Ohio, didn’t redshirt like Tim Beckman would prefer every offensive lineman he has come through his program do. Schmidt played in 10 games last season, first seeing time against Cincinnati and then receiving at least a few snaps in the final seven games. He played nearly the entire game during the Illini’s 52-35 loss at Indiana last Novemeber at left tackle after starter Simon Cvijanovic went down with a right ankle injury. He saw reps leading up to the the following game against Ohio State at left tackle, but Beckman elected to shift Michael Heitz to left tackle instead of having a true freshman contend with Ohio State’s Noah Spence. Schmidt might not get that option this season. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound Schmidt possesses long arms that make him ideal for a tackle spot, but coaches want to see more consistency from him once preseason practices begin.
Fast fact: Schmidt enrolled early at Illinois after playing at Olentangy High School in Lewis Center, Ohio, and leading the Braves to a 10-2 record his senior season. Schmidt was the eighth commit for Illinois in the Class of 2013 and committed the same day Illinois offered in early May 2012.
Last year’s ranking: N/A
No. 27: Mikey Dudek