CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Wins have been scarce in Jon Davis' first three seasons at Illinois, just 13 in all. Seven of those came his freshman year.
But the tight end believes this could be the year the Illini turn the corner.
"Six or seven wins isn't a far-off goal," he said. "This team is good enough to be a bowl team."
It may have to be for coach Tim Beckman. His boss, athletic director Mike Thomas, has said the team needs be better than last season. Those Illini were 4-8 (1-7 Big Ten), a small step up from 2-12 in 2012.
"Now, it's not the numbers that we all want, but we did get better," Beckman said.
The third-year coach has at least one big weapon to work with this fall in transfer quarterback Wes Lunt. And the Illini have a bunch of returning players who should be better, as well as an influx of junior college talent. Five things to watch at Illinois this season:
QB TALENT: The last time Lunt played at Illinois' Memorial Stadium, he was the quarterback for Rochester (Ill.) High School and threw for 590 yards and four touchdowns in winning a state title. He started as a freshman at Oklahoma State before losing the job to injury, then sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules. Now 6-5 and 225 pounds, he is the kind of pure passer who could put serious bite into coordinator Bill Cubit's offense.
Illinois scored 29.7 points a game in 2013, sixth in the Big Ten, and was second in passing yards with 287.7 a game.
But Lunt's a better passer than last year's starter, Nathan Scheelhaase. And Lunt just plain knows what he's doing, Cubit said.
"You could just tell the kids trust him when he's out there and he's making calls," Cubit said.
RECEIVING QUESTIONS: If Illinois lacks experience in any one spot, receiver is it. The most productive returning wide receiver, Martize Barr, caught 26 balls for 246 yards. But Illinois added junior college receiving talent in Tyrin Stone-Davis and Geronimo Allison. And two true freshmen, Mike Dudek and Malik Turner, have won early praise.
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