22 days to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini.
No. 22: Donovonn Young, RB
Why he’s important: Sometimes people forget the success Young has already had at Illinois. Primed to emerge last season as the Illini’s top rusher, the Texan took a step back. He only finished with 376 yards, the lowest he’s had in his first three seasons, on 93 carries and three touchdowns. Far from expectations he had to hit the 1,000-yard mark in the 2013 season. He’ll need at least 602 yards this fall to become the 17th player at Illinois to rush for at least 2,000 yards. Not quite sure if he’ll reach the milestone, but Young is determined to put last season’s disappointment behind him. He’ll start the season as a backup to Josh Ferguson, but could get his fair share of carries early if his production increases and he doesn’t fumble the football. Young contemplated transferring in the offseason, but came back to spring practices with a renewed focus and confidence. Young should provide a nice change of pace from Josh Ferguson this season when called upon.
Fast fact: Young goes into the season 26th on the school’s all-time career rushing list. Of the 40 Illinois running backs, fullbacks or quarterbacks who have managed at least 1,000 yards in their career, Young is the only one who came to Illinois having played high school football in Texas. Twenty-two in-state products are on the list, four hailed from Missouri, three from Indiana, two from Florida and one apiece from Arizona, Arkansas, California, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington, D.C.
Last year’s ranking: No. 3
Tomorrow: No. 21
No. 23: Michael Heitz