Top 50 most important Illini: No. 44, Dre Brown

Top 50 most important Illini: No. 44, Dre Brown

Vitals: 5-11, 215, R-Jr., RB

Hometown: DeKalb

High School: DeKalb

Looking back at 2017: Brown still battled injury issues last season and missed six more games after missing the entirety of the 2015 and 2016 seasons with a pair of torn ACLs. Finally on the field, the former four-star recruit in the 2015 class made his first career start and rushed for 138 yards on 31 carries in six games. Brown was also used as a kick returner and averaged 27.8 yards on his six returns, with a team-long 50-yard return against Northwestern.

Looking ahead to 2018: The running back depth chart will be competitive, with Brown angling for playing time and carries along with at least Mike Epstein, Ra'Von Bonner and Reggie Corbin. As the past few seasons have shown, though, there's no such thing as too many running backs. Brown gives the Illini a bigger back to use as a change of pace.

Last year's ranking: No. 33