The 90 Illini #16: Brian Hightower

Aug 13, 2021

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Just a little number update for when you're watching the first game. Last year, Coran Taylor was #7 and Brian Hightower wore the 14. Also, Casey Washington was 8. Well, in the offseason, Casey Washington transferred to Wake Forest and Coran Taylor moved to safety (where he will wear #9).

So now both 7 and 8 are vacant on offense. Hightower switches from 14 to 7, wide receiver Jafar Armstrong arrives from Notre Dame and takes the 8, and then Casey Washington transfers back from Wake Forest but his number was taken so he grabs the 14.

Which means that you might be a bit confused while watching the first game. No, #14 is not Brian Hightower anymore - it's Casey Washington. No, #8 isn't Casey Washington anymore, it's Jafar Armstrong. And no, #7 is not Coran Taylor playing wide receiver - it's Brian Hightower. Coran is #9 on defense.

16. Brian Hightower

Wide Receiver
Uniform number: 7
Year in school: Junior (without the Covid waiver, 2 years to play 1; with the Covid waiver, technically 3 years to play 2)
Height: 6'-3" -- Weight: 215 lbs.
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
High School: IMG Academy - Bradenton, Florida
Former School: Miami (FL)
Five best offers: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC
Tom Cruise rating:

2020 statistics: Played in all eight games, starting seven. 11 catches for 209 yards and three touchdowns.


As far as transfers go, the buildup for Brian Hightower from high school to the 2021 season sets up really well for Illinois. Here's a quick run through his background:

  • Star WR in the Los Angeles area. Starts to get offers from everywhere.
  • Moves to IMG Academy in Florida to develop further before college.
  • Is ranked as a high 4-star. He was #169 in the Composite rankings, so using my 6.54 rule, that's like a basketball player ranked 26th nationally.
  • Gets offers from basically everyone including Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State. Chooses Miami (FL).
  • Plays as a true freshman at Miami, finishes with four catches for 60 yards and one touchdown.
  • In the offseason there's a coaching change. Manny Diaz is named Miami head coach.
  • After seven games under Diaz his sophomore year (8 catches for 88 yards), he announces he's transferring. Speculation at the time was some kind of falling out with the new coaching staff, but nothing definitive was reported.
  • He transfers to Illinois in April. This was 2020, so he still needed a waiver, which he received. He was eligible to play in 2020.
  • He starts 7 of the 8 games and has 11 catches for 209 yards.
  • 2020 doesn't count towards eligibility, so he returns in 2021 as a junior with two seasons left to play.

If you're looking for breakout candidates, that's a pretty solid build-up to the 2021 season. 4-star recruit, left his old school after a coaching change, landed at Illinois, first year was the weird pandemic season, and now he just turned 22 years old and is ready for two seasons as the go-to outside receiver.

2021 Outlook

The go-to outside receiver is the goal. We don't know exactly how Tony Petersen will employ his receivers, but if it's a basic flanker, split-end, and slot arrangement, then Hightower is your split-end with Donny Navarro as the flanker and Isaiah Williams as the slot. They might mix and match, so that's not some prediction that Hightower will only be out there at split end. I'm sure there's all kinds of stack formations and such.

But as for what to expect from him, it's those Geronimo Allison or Josh Imatorbhebhe routes. He's the taller, stronger receiver who will need to go up and get it at times. Maybe catch a back-shoulder throw here and there. Use that 4-star athleticism to win battles on the outside.


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