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LB Milo Eifler at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.

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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. 12: Milo Eifler

Vitals: 6-2, 230, R-Jr., LB

Hometown: Berkeley, Calif.

High school: Bishop O’Dowd

Looking back at 2018: Eifler spent last fall working with the scout team in practice and watching from the sidelines during games while sitting out following his transfer from Washington. That second “redshirt” season, though, let Eifler learn Lovie Smith’s defense and develop a rapport with the new defensive coordinator after Hardy Nickerson (the former coach at Bishop O’Dowd, who encouraged him to play football as a sophomore) resigned mid-season.

Looking ahead to 2019: Illinois showed more of a traditional 4-3 defensive formation during spring practices after playing in a 4-2-5 scheme most of the 2018 season with Del’Shawn Phillips and Jake Hansen at linebacker. Even if Smith doesn’t always use three linebackers and gets a nickelback on the field in passing situations, Eifler remains in the mix at the top of the linebacker depth chart with Hansen, Dele Harding and Delano Ware.

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).