Top 50 most important Illini: No. 17, Tito Odenigbo

Top 50 most important Illini: No. 17, Tito Odenigbo

Best of ... Illini

No. 17: Tito Odenigbo, DL

Why he's important: While the search for edge rushers will continue in training camp, the Illinois coaching staff at least knows what it has up the middle. That's a trio of potential run stuffers that all saw playing time — and started at least one game — last season. Odenigbo's start came at Michigan, but he had most of his success earlier in the season with his first career sack in the opener against Murray State and a career-high three tackles against Western Michigan (later matched against Iowa). With the graduation/NFL draft attrition at defensive end, Illinois needs its interior defensive linemen to carry a bigger load. That could be getting more pressure in the opposing backfield instead of just occupying blockers to free up the defensive ends to do so themselves. Odenigbo has the size (6-foot-3, 310 pounds) to accomplish the latter and at least showed in high school as a consensus three-star prospect he could get after the quarterback with 11 1 / 2 sacks as a senior.

Fast fact: The Centerville, Ohio, native, whose father Thomas graduated from Illinois' College of Engineering, celebrated his 21st birthday on Thursday.

Last year's ranking: No. 34

Previous rankings: No. 50, DL Kendrick Green; No. 49, QB Cam Miller; No. 48, DB James Knight; No. 47, DL Lere Oladipo; No. 46, LB Jake Hansen; No. 45, RB Austin Roberts; No. 44, QB Trenard Davis; No. 43, RB Mike Epstein; No. 42, TE Griffin Palmer; No. 41, DB Frank Sumpter; No. 40, QB Cameron Thomas; No. 39, WR Carmoni Green; No. 38, DB Ahmari Hayes; No. 37, OL Adam Solomon; No. 36, TE Caleb Reams; No. 35, LB Justice Williams; No. 34, DL Owen Carney Jr.; No. 33, RB Dre Brown; No. 32, TE Henry McGrew; No. 31, DB Julian Hylton; No. 30, WR Ricky Smalling; No. 29, LB Dele Harding; No. 28, OL Larry Boyd; No. 27, DB Cameron Watkins; No. 26, WR Dominic Thieman; No. 25, LB Del'Shawn Phillips; No. 24, DL Sean Adesanya; No. 23, DB Chris James; No. 22, TE Nathan Echard; No. 21, WR Sam Mays; No. 20, DL Kenyon Jackson; No. 19, K Chase McLaughlin; No.18, OL Gabe Megginson.