Illinois football has a special talent on its hands, and it has been evident in the first four games this season.
The Illini started the 2022 campaign 3-1 with that lone loss coming in a series-winning Indiana. We could easily be 4-0 right now. This solid start for the Orange and Blue has come on the shoulders of running back Chase Brown.
I smile as I write this, but Brown had his worst game of the season on Thursday night against Chattanooga. He finished with just 108 yards and a rushing touchdown. The reason I’m smiling is that it’s his worst game, and yet he hit the 100-yard mark and put the ball in the end zone.
Brown now has 604 yards and three touchdowns on the season. That’s an outstanding 151 yards per game. If you expand that number to a 12-game season, then Brown is on track to finish 2022 with 1,812 rushing yards. This would break Mikel Leshoure’s single-season rushing record for the Illini, which currently stands at 1,697 yards.
The only #Illini record holder.
— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) September 23, 2022
This strong performance from Brown, coupled with the fact that Illinois is winning games, bodes well for the talented running back’s future. That’s right, we could end up seeing another Illinois ball carrier in the pro ranks.
Illinois football running back Chase Brown is on the NFL’s radar.
There used to be a strong history of running backs from Illinois in the NFL. However, that trend quickly dried up in recent years.
The last running back from Illinois to see time in the NFL was Josh Ferguson. He spent three years trying to land an NFL franchise. Before that, it was Leshoure, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions but was out of the league after two seasons.
Reggie Corbin currently carries the Illinois running flag in the professional ranks. He was sensational for the USFL’s Michigan Panthers last season. Corbin would rush for 519 yards, which was fourth in the league, but he only played in eight games compared to the three guys ahead of him who played in 10 games. Corbin also averaged 5.5 yards per carry, which was .6 yards higher than anyone else in the top five.
While Corbin will hopefully see an NFL field at some point in the near future, hopefully we get to see Brown’s name called on draft night in 2023.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper released his top 10 list at every position in the college game. The running back list included some great players. The No. 1 running back in college football, according to Kiper, is Texas’ Bijan Robinson.
There are a few other big names on the list, but at No. 9 is a familiar face. That’s where Kiper has Brown. Not only is he one of the top 10 running backs for the upcoming NFL Draft, but he’s the best Big Ten ball carrier on Kiper’s list.
When Bret Bielema became the Illini’s head coach, he knew about their history with running backs and putting talent into the NFL. I think his coaching mindset is fading at Brown. His performance this season has been spectacular, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move up this list over the next eight games.
Illinois has a special talent as a running back. Let’s enjoy what we’re seeing with Brown because we never know when he’s going to show up again.