Michael Marchese | Junior linebacker
Vitals: 6-4, 210, Jr., S
Hometown: Vernon Hills
High School: Stevenson
Looking back at 2018: The walk-on safety played in 11 games after missing the season opener with an injury and made the first three starts of his career. Marchese, the younger brother of former Illini walk-on turned scholarship linebacker Jimmy Marchese, finished the 2018 season with 21 tackles, two pass breakups, one interception, one fumble recovery and one quarterback hurry. He had a career-high 11 tackles in the season finale at Northwestern.
Looking ahead to 2019: Marchese's expanded role last fall will likely continue — even if he doesn't get the same number of starts. Still, he'll be in the rotation at safety and showed last season with his two takeaways that he can be the type of opportunistic defensive player that Illinois coach (and defensive coordinator) Lovie Smith wants.
Last year's ranking: NR