Illinois Football 6567

Illinois running back Reggie Corbin (2) runs the ball during the first day of Illinois football training camp at the Campus Rec Fields Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana.

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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. 2: Reggie Cobin

Vitals: 5-10, 200, R-Sr., RB

Hometown: Upper Marlboro, Md.

High school: Gonzaga College

Looking back at 2018: Corbin’s breakout 2018 season probably shouldn’t have been a surprise. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry as a redshirt freshman in 2016 — the 14th-best mark in the nation among freshmen — before falling out of former offensive coordinator Garrick McGee’s rotation in 2017. New coordinator Rod Smith’s system invigorated Corbin, who rushed for 1,085 rushing yards and nine touchdowns and averaged 8.5 yards per carry, becoming the first Illini since Champaign native Mikel Leshoure in 2010 to top 1,000 rushing yards.

Looking ahead to 2019: A repeat of last year’s production would make Corbin the first Illinois running back with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Robert Holcombe. The Illini career rushing leader with 4,105 yards had three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 1995-97. That Corbin topped 1,000 yards last year while dealing with a nagging leg injury late in the season bodes well for what he could do when 100 percent healthy. Illinois might be deep at running back, but Corbin is the clear No. 1 option in the Illini run game.

Last year’s ranking: No. 16

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).