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Illini Look to Shore Up Big Ten-Worst Run Defense

WGIL Newsroom . State Sports 163

illiniCHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Illinois coaches and players are talking frequently about the need to start fast as they get ready for the season opener Saturday against Youngstown State.

A season ago the Illini regularly found themselves trailing early. A big reason was the team’s struggles to stop the run.

Illinois had the Big Ten’s worst run defense in 2013 when the team went 4-8. It gave up 238.6 yards a game. That’s 5.6 yards a play, the kind of yardage that makes it tough for a defense to get off the field.

Beckman said Tuesday that inexperience and lack of depth were serious defensive problems. He believes those problems have been solved.

Junior linebacker Mason Monheim believes Youngstown will run a lot on Saturday and give Illinois’s run defense its first test.