The 90 Illini #56: Khmari Thompson
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Of all positions, the hardest ones to rank on this list were the wide receivers. By the end of the Nebraska game we should have a really good idea on the WR rotation. There will be 5-6 guys who are the main targets and are in the regular rotation. Beyond that, there will be a large number of receivers on the sideline not participating.
So if we look at it that way, there should be 5-6 receivers in the top-40 on a "most important Illini" list and then everyone else should be in the 70' and 80's. There's a decent chance some backup linebackers will be used in other ways (defensive packages, special teams), but most of the backup receivers will not make the participation chart (unless they're used on coverage teams or as a returner). By the end of the season, if we look at the top seven pass catchers on the team, there's a good chance that there's two tailbacks, two tight ends, and three receivers. Who are those three receivers? Really had to say. It could be...
- The returning receivers like Donny Navarro and Brian Hightower
- Incoming transfers and freshmen like Jafar Armstrong and Patrick Bryant
- Last year's transfers like Desmond Dan and Khmari Thompson
- The players changing positions like Isaiah Williams and Marquez Beason
- The receivers who have been here a while like Carlos Sandy and Dalevon Campbell
- Walkons like Owen Hickey and Ty Lindenman
And that's not even all the names. The receiver rotation is completely up in the air right now. Which means there's a big opportunity for guys like...
56. Khmari Thompson
Uniform number: 4
Year in school: Sophomore (without the Covid waiver, 2 years to play 2; with the Covid waiver, technically 3 years to play 3)
Height: 6'-1" -- Weight: 210 lbs.
Hometown: Lawrenceville, Georgia
Previous School: Missouri
Five best offers: Missouri, Kansas State, Purdue, Tulane, Georgia Southern
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: Played in 5 of the 8 games as kickoff returner. 12 returns, 234 yards.
He has a track background (hi Lovie), even participating in both sports while at Missouri. After two years there, he didn't see much opportunity on the football field (although he was running in track meets), so he transferred to Illinois before the 2020 season.
Last year, he did find his way onto the field returning kickoffs, but he never really made the receiver rotation. He did get some snaps at receiver, but that was mostly a "now that it's all over, play everyone" kind of thing. This is a new staff and a new scheme, though, so opportunity has arrived.
I guess I already kind of covered this at the top. I think we know that Donny Navarro and Brian Hightower are going to see a fair number of targets. And I don't think Isaiah Williams was moved to wide receiver to just stand there on the sideline. Beyond those three, I'm not sure we could really say who the fourth receiver would be. Marquez Beason if his knee is 100% I guess?
So this camp is a big opportunity for about 10 guys. Just like this spring was a big opportunity for many of them. I think the biggest roster "statement" of the spring game was that Khmari Thompson and Carlos Sandy were both on the Orange Team with Navarro and Hightower. That seemed to fairly clearly state that the staff saw Sandy and Thompson as the #3 and #4 guys this spring.
Now, a whole bunch more players join the WR room. Massive camp upcoming for Thompson as he tries to hang onto that top-4 spot.