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As an opportunity to showcase the skills of many Illinois players that cannot play high school football this fall, Prep Redzone gathered nearly 400 players who were anxious to take the field and get some work in. 

Yesterday, Wolverine Digest covered the players who had the most notable offensive performances, but now it's time to dive into the players on the other side of the football.

Defensive Standouts

From the 2023 class, Wheaton (Ill.) St. Francis defensive lineman T.J. McMillen has already picked up a few Division 1 offers, and the 6-4, 235-pounder showed why on Saturday. McMillen demonstrated his ability to stay low on the edge when rushing the passer, and he was one of the stronger players competing on the day. McMillen is listed as a strong-sided defensive end, but he could reasonably tack on some weight and slide inside if need be for a Power Five program.

Later in the day, the skilled position players took the field, and 2022 South Holland (Ill.) Thornwood defensive back Saveon Brown made his presence felt in drill after drill. As a physical safety with good size at 6-1 and 187 pounds, Brown was competitive and continually matched up with some of the tougher receivers at the camp. In doing so, Brown not only held his own but made a series of tough interceptions and was a difficult opponent to throw over on the day. At one point, Brown even lined up at wide receiver and ran a streak for a touchdown towards the end of the camp.

Right now, Brown has early offers from Akron and Iowa State, but he could easily wind up at a Power Five program. Brown mentioned that he's been keeping in touch with a few programs that haven't offered yet, so his stock is still rising on the recruiting trail. 

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At the linebacker position, Lemont (Ill.) High senior Al Pontrelli is a player that flashed at linebacker periodically throughout the day. So far, Pontrelli holds offers from Central Michigan and Eastern Illinois, so he's not exactly an option for Michigan, a team that very well may be done recruiting linebackers in the 2021 class as it is, but he still had a strong showing in what was a deep field of competitors.

In the 2022 class, one of the sleepers in attendance was Joliet (Ill.) West linebacker Bryan McCoy, one of the prospects who looked the most physically ready. McCoy logged four games on varsity as a sophomore last season, but in that time he racked up 29 total tackles and made an impact on the field. McCoy was sound in pass coverage, and one of his best attributes was shoving running backs or tight ends at the line to jam would-be receivers off of their route. 

Another player that put forth a quality performance during individual drills and one-on-ones was 2022 East St. Louis (Ill.) High defensive lineman Jireh Mays. For his high school team, Mays plays on both sides of the football, but he looked the part of a collegiate defensive tackle already at 6-2 and 315 pounds. Mays had 60 total tackles and four sacks as a sophomore last year, and he was a handful on Saturday too. With impressive strength, Mays will likely need to increase his foot speed and burst off the line of scrimmage, but if he does that then he'll develop into a productive interior lineman at the next level. 

There was certainly more talent at the camp on offense, but players on both sides of the football came to play and were able to work on their skills even during a COVID-19-impacted season.

Will Illinois reverse its decision and decide to play football at the high school level this fall? Let us know!