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In 2017, the Fighting Illini had another forgettable season, finishing 2-10 and failing to win a single Big Ten Conference game.

This offseason, the Illini have reloaded, hiring former University of Arizona QB’s coach Rod Smith as offensive coordinator, and are looking to build off newly-created mantra: #Littyville.

While Illinois struggled to win games, there were a few bright spots on both sides of the ball. Most notably, though, was true freshman running back, Mike Epstein, who showed potential flashes of brilliance before sustaining a season-ending foot injury in Week 5 against Rutgers.

In his Week 1 outing vs. Ball State, Epstein scored twice and rushed for 54 yards. The following week against Western Kentucky, he had 111 yards rushing, his highest total of the season.

He became the fifth true freshman in Illini history to lead the team in rushing yards, and looks to continue that feat in 2018.

Epstein returns to the Illini in 2018, joining a backfield that includes sophomore Reggie Corbin, sophomore Ra’Von Bonner, freshman Jakari Norwood, and other emerging running backs.

Illinois also returns a young receiving core, which should balance out the offensive attack. Sophomore quarterback Cam Thomas will also see action after Chase Crouch retired from football, and Jeff George Jr. transferred to Michigan. They also return nine defensive starters.

The Illini are still in the rebuilding stages under head coach Lovie Smith. However, a culture change in Champaign is evident, and #Littyville is at the center of it. Created by a few assistant coaches, #Littyville’s purpose is to bring the team together, have fun on campus, and restore Illinois return to glory once again.

At the Big Ten Media Day in Chicago, IL, July 25, senior wide receiver Mike Dudek spoke on the importance of the 2018 season and what it means to him.

“I’ve been around it all [three coaching changes],” Dudek told Big Ten Network. “Having a young receiver group, talking to them every day, making sure they are doing alright. Success will come, and we have to meet the standard our coaches set for us.”

Illinois will open their schedule at home against Kent State on September 1 at 11:00 a.m on Big Ten Network.

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Content Creator at Armchair Illinois , Armchair All-Americans
Zain Bando is a Downers Grove North High School graduate (a Western Suburb of Illinois), and incoming freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is majoring in journalism and aspires to become a major presence in the media industry. He is also an avid UFC, NFL, and boxing fan. When he is not digging through stats about Super Bowl’s or fighters, he can be seen trying new food, traveling, hanging out with family and friends, or on social media. He will cover Illini athletics for Armchair All-Americans, and encourages you to follow him on all main social media platforms: @zainbando99 #TakeASeat
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Content Creator at Armchair Illinois , Armchair All-Americans
Zain Bando is a Downers Grove North High School graduate (a Western Suburb of Illinois), and incoming freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is majoring in journalism and aspires to become a major presence in the media industry. He is also an avid UFC, NFL, and boxing fan. When he is not digging through stats about Super Bowl’s or fighters, he can be seen trying new food, traveling, hanging out with family and friends, or on social media. He will cover Illini athletics for Armchair All-Americans, and encourages you to follow him on all main social media platforms: @zainbando99 #TakeASeat

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