Dominic Stampley

Illinois wide receiver Dominic Stampley (6) is tackled after making a catch in the second half of a NCAA college football game against Minnesota, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Champaign, Ill.

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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. 18: Dominic Stampley

Vitals: 5-10, 180, R-Jr., WR

Hometown: Champaign

High school: Centennial

Looking back at 2018: Stampley came on strong in the second half of the season. He had just two receptions for 19 yards in the first five games of the season before the first of two breakout performances. Stampley caught a season-high eight passes for 65 yards against Minnesota and then went off at Maryland with four catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns against the Terrapins. His 84-yard score against the Terps was the third-longest pass play in program history.

Looking ahead to 2019: Improved hands (essentially, holding onto passes thrown his way) will keep Stampley on the field this fall after leading the Illini in yards per catch (16.4) in his first season by fully utilizing his speed. Of course, the Champaign native will be challenged for snaps at the slot position by incoming Southern California graduate transfer Trevon Sidney, but Stampley showed in stretches last season he can become a key cog on the Illinois offense. Now, the task is to carry that consistency over to each game on a unit that is searching for playmakers entering the season.

Last year’s ranking: NR

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).