Three true freshmen head the list of first-year Illini who are most likely to play: Cornerback Terry Hawthorne, tailback Justin Green and defensive end Michael Buchanan. Hawthorne, Ron Zook's top 2009 recruit, has moved over from wide receiver, a position he's likely to return to after this season. Green has impressed coaches with a burst that makes him a factor even though Illinois has four capable veterans at running back.
Other freshmen probably will take off their red shirts as the season progresses, out of necessity and because they show they can help. But Zook knows players benefit greatly from using a redshirt year to develop.
``Hopefully, that list [of true freshmen who play immediately] is smaller than it's been since we got here,'' the coach said.