Before the start of Illinois football's training camp on Aug. 2 in Champaign, beat writer Scott Richey is counting down the Top 50 most important Illini heading into the 2019 season:
No. 38: Calvin Avery
Vitals: 6-2, 330, So., DT
High school: Bishop Dunne
Looking back at 2018: Avery arrived at Illinois with some fairly lofty expectations. The consensus four-star recruit was ranked as high as No. 156 overall and as the No. 9 defensive tackle by Rivals, and he was the Illini's top overall prospect in the Class of 2018. Avery played in all 12 games as a true freshman and finished with 18 tackles, 1 1 / 2 tackles for loss and a blocked extra point against Purdue.
Looking ahead to 2019: The next step for Avery is to not just play in every game this coming season, but to have a bigger impact in the middle of the Illinois defense. The Texas native is certainly in the Illini's rotation at defensive tackle, but a bigger role — as in more snaps — will only come if Avery's able to stay on the field longer. Conditioning and limiting mistakes has to be his focus.
Last year's ranking: No. 23