Elzy ready to step up in sophomore season

WCIA — Former four-star recruit Malik Elzy learned a lot from the sidelines during his true freshman season in 2023.

“When you face adversity, what are you gonna do?” Elzy said. “Are you gonna stay down or are you gonna rise and get out of that and just learn and I feel like I learned very well and just learned how to play hard.”

Now with a new position coach in Justin Stepp and new motivation, the Chicago native is ready for year two with the Illini after only reeling in five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown in his freshman season. Illinois had three receivers over 560 yards, the first time that has happened in program history.

“I told these guys, you got a ton of production going out the door,” Stepp said. “Who’s gonna step up and be the guy?”

Where some athletes would take being the third or fourth string guy as a reason to lose enthusiasm or even enter the transfer portal, Elzy has focused on his game and proving himself as the guy for the job.

“Spring ball has actually helped me out a lot,” Elzy said. “Just learning the plays and learning where I gotta be and manipulating the routes and Coach Stepp’s just helping me be that dominant dog.”

“Another really smart kid that works really hard, that runs good routes and another guy that cares a lot and he’s in here all the time,” Stepp said.

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