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Q&A With Josh Imatorbhebhe: Favorite CFB Moments, Illinois' Coaching Change, NFL Expectations

Josh Imatorbhebhe makes a catch in the fourth quarter.

EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 09: Josh Imatorbhebhe #9 of the Illinois Fighting Illini catches a fourth quarter fourth down pass to keep the drive alive between Xavier Henderson #3 and Shakur Brown #29 of the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on November 09, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. Illinois Fighting Illini won the game 37-34. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

While there's plenty of praise going around to wide receivers like Ja'Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith, NFL scouts should have Illinois wideout Josh Imatorbhebhe on their radar.

Imatorbhebhe is an exceptional athlete, and although the Fighting Illini didn't have a high-flying offense, he still managed to make plays in his two seasons with the program.

During the 2019 season, Imatorbhebhe had 33 catches for 634 yards and nine touchdowns. That's an impressive average of 19.2 yards per reception. He didn't have as great of a stat line this past fall since COVID-19 affected Illinois' quarterback room, but he still had 22 receptions for 297 yards and three touchdowns.

There's a lot to love about Imatorbhebhe's frame since he's 6-foot-2, but what really separates him from other receivers is his ability to high point the football. Traits like that usually carry over to the pros.

Scouts will get a chance to see just how explosive Imatorbhebhe can be during his pro day this spring. In the meantime, the college football world can learn more about the Illinois wideout from our interview we conducted with him this week.

The Spun: Looking back at your Illinois career, what was your favorite moment?

Josh Imatorbhebhe: There are a couple, actually. We had a couple of big upset victories during my time there. We had one against Wisconsin when they were the No. 6 team in the country and had the No. 1 defense. We beat them at home 24-23 on a game-winning field goal and I had a touchdown that game. I actually had two touchdowns that game, but one was called back because of holding. But yeah, that game and then probably my junior year when we played Michigan State. I think we were down 28-3 after the first quarter and came all the way back to beat them. I had some pretty big touchdowns and had 4th-and-17 conversion that actually got us within red-zone range. Those were two games I’ll remember for a long time.

The Spun: What was your initial reaction to Lovie Smith getting fired?

JI: It was unfortunate, but this is business. Everyone knows Illinois isn’t a blue blood, so we needed to have a full offseason in order to be the team we know we could’ve been. We had 17 returning starters, 5 of us were Senior Bowl watchlist guys, and we had a lot of talent that was going to step in. Teams that aren’t like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and those used to winning, need a full offseason to gain the momentum and confidence to perform the way they know they can. Not being able to do that was unfortunate because I think it could’ve been a different story and Lovie would’ve still been there.

The Spun: Who was the best defensive player you faced in college?

JI: I’ll give you a couple of names. Greg Newsome from Northwestern is really good, I’m training with him now. Ambry Thomas is also pretty good. He opted out this year, but I played against him the year before. Paddy Fisher from Northwestern is also up there really good awareness. The former defensive lineman from Iowa, AJ Epenesa, he was really, really good. He made us change up our offensive game plan. There are just so many great players in the Big Ten.

The Spun: What are you hoping to show in your Pro Day?

JI: How explosive I really am. I know some people think I don’t play as explosively as I test, but I’m hoping to quiet those critics when they see me up close in person. So I ant to debunk that myth and show we had a bad situation this past season. Our quarterback got COVID-19 after the first game of the season and then he missed the next three games, so it was hard for our team to get into a rhythm and for us to have the season we know we could’ve had. I really want to show the type of player I am. I showed flashes my junior year and was hoping to show more my senior year, but a lot of it was hindered because of COVID-19.

The Spun: Who’s a wide receiver that you model your game after?

JI: I feel like I’m similar enough to DK Metcalf or AJ Brown, guys that are big, explosive and play tough. In terms of route-running and technique, I try to study how Amari Cooper does his releases and gets in and out of his breaks. And there’s also Julio Jones, who I feel like encompasses everything a wide receiver should have.

The Spun: Which cornerback do you want to face in the NFL?

JI: I definitely have to earn my respect, so I don’t want to call guys out before I get drafted. But I’d be happy to go against any top corner. When you get in the league, you need to work your way up - it’s a process. Some people are lucky enough to experience stardom in their rookie year. Most people go through a building process though. I just want to have my head down and grind so I can get to where I want to be.

The Spun: What is an NFL team getting in Josh Imadorbhebe?

JI: I don’t just want to play and compete, I want to dominate. They’re getting someone who looks to dominate every rep. If you dominate, there’s no question if you win. If you compete, you might win, you might. If you’re dominant, you’re going to find a way. That’s how I’ve always lived my life - if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Imatorbhebhe currently has a mid-round projection, but that could change depending on how he performs at his pro day.

You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.