24 days to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini
No. 24: Alex Hill, OL
Why he’s important: Returning starter on the offensive line should have responsibilty of snapping the ball to either Wes Lunt, Reilly O’Toole or Aaron Bailey. He started all 12 games last season for the Illini, with the first nine at center. He then shifted to left guard for the final three games with the emergence of Jake Feldmeyer at center, along with injuries and inconsistent play from Michael Heitz at the left guard position. The fifth-year senior from Louisiana has taken on more of a vocal role this offseason and brings an added measure of experience to a unit stacked with just that. Hill can help incoming freshman Nick Allegretti learn the ins and outs of the position, grooming the Lincoln-Way East product for this spot possibly in the 2015 season. Hill will need to avoid costly penalties which surfaced last season at inopportune times against Michigan State and Penn State. Both miscues cost Illinois touchdowns, but he was a key linchpin last season for Illini’s improved play along the offensive line — and will need to keep making progress this season again.
Fast fact: After earning a degree in communications in May, Hill — who has a 4-year-old daughter named Jordyn — plans to earn a second bachelor’s degree in sociology next May before he gets married next summer to Mariah Smith, a thrower on the Illinois women’s track and field team.
Last year’s ranking: No. 27
Tomorrow: No. 23
No. 25: Jihad Ward