CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)–Illinois finished its 4-8 season with holes to fill on both sides of the ball. There are hopes in Champaign that the 18 players it signed Wednesday will take care of at least a few.The group is heavy on linebackers, defensive linemen and wide receivers, with four of each. Illinois’ receiver corps was thinned by graduation and its defense was among the Big Ten’s worst in 2013.
Coach Tim Beckman said he also signed almost a third of the class from junior colleges because Illinois needs immediate help.
The top addition might be junior college transfer Jihad Ward from Globe Institute of Technology in New York. Beckman called him big and athletic.
Another key addition is receiver Malik Turner from Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield.