Penn State Illinois Football

Illinois defensive lineman Tymir Oliver (96) tackles Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Memorial Stadium Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.

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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. 23: Tymir Oliver

Vitals: 6-4, 290, Sr., DT

Hometown: Philadelphia

High school: West Philadelphia Catholic

Looking back at 2018: Oliver started all 12 games at defensive tackle last fall for Illinois. The most experienced player on the Illini defensive line finished the season with 27 tackles, four pass breakups, 2 1 / 2 tackles for loss and one quarterback hurry. His production across the board slipped, though, from his breakout sophomore season in 2017 when he was more disruptive in opposing backfields.

Looking ahead to 2019: The Illini have a fairly deep defensive line — both at end and tackle. So Oliver is going to be pushed at the latter by guys like Jamal Milan, Jamal Woods, Calvin Avery and even Deon Pate, who looked good this spring. Oliver’s veteran presence, though, could push him to the top of the defensive tackle rotation again. If he’s able to match or exceed what he did as a sophomore, he could be a serious threat up front.

Last year’s ranking: No. 12

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).