Lovie: Illini DB Marquez Beason Not Yet 100 Percent; Will Be Slowly Worked Into Preseason Practices

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Marquez Beason is active for the first two days of preseason practice but isn’t yet 100 percent healthy, according to Illinois head coach Lovie Smith.

Smith confirmed Friday, following the second day of preseason practices, that the redshirt freshman is still dealing with undisclosed injuries and won’t likely be activated for all full-contact practices that are slated to begin Saturday.

Beason, a consensus four-star 2019 prospect, suffered a season-ending knee injury during training camp last August that would require surgery to repair. The 5-foot-11 and 195 pound defensive back was the highest-ranked Illini recruit since 2009, ranking No. 91 in the nation by ESPN.com, No. 99 by 247Sports.com and No. 108 by Rivals.com when he signed with Illinois during the early period of Dec. 2018. The 2019 Under Armor All-American led Duncanville (Texas) High School to the 2018 6A Division 1 state title runner-up finish at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and a 14-1 record. Beason chose the Illini program over scholarship offers from Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Texas A&M, Southern California and Wisconsin

“As far as what we expect from him eventually, it’s for him to become a great player,” Smith said Friday following the Illini’s second preseason practice. “He’s got all the tools to become a great player, not good, a great player. Nothing has changed. He was impressive in training camp last year before he went down with an injury and he’s bigger, stronger, knows the game a lot better so eventually that’s what we’re going to get from him.”

Smith said Friday Beason still won’t be on “an everyday practice routine” but the Illini fifth-year head coach is hopeful he can contribute as a redshirt freshman to the depth of the Illini’s defensive backfield in this 2020 campaign. Beason was expected this season to compete for playing time at nickel cornerback or the open safety spot as the Illini return three members of their secondary (senior cornerbacks Nate Hobbs and Tony Adams along with junior safety Syndey Brown).

The Illini have less than a month to prepare for a scheduled season opener on Thursday night Sept. 3 against Big Ten defending champion Ohio State, who was ranked No. 2 in the preseason USA Today Coaches poll released Thursday morning.