The 2021 NFL draft class appears to have some big-name linebacker prospects from powerhouse programs, but if your favorite NFL team is looking for one of the more underrated player at that position in the class, they need to take a hard look at Illinois’s Milo Eifler.
A athletic, versatile defender, Eifler recently spoke exclusively with MCM about his transfer from Washington to Illinois, what lead to his breakout year in 2019, and why it’s such an honor to play for coach Lovie Smith.
JM: How have you managed to stay in shape and keep up with your weight training throughout the pandemic?
ME: It started way back in March when the stay-at-home order first went into effect. My parents were able to set me up with a personal trainer at the time because I was still rehabbing an injury. Thankfully, I was able to take care of that.
As an athlete, I had to find ways to stay in shape. The responsibility ultimately lands at my feet. I was able to stay in shape while I was at home. Coming into fall camp, I spent some time in Los Angeles. I did some off-season training out there. There’s more stuff available to you down there. They have the sand dunes and what not. I was doing beach workouts.
I’ve been motivated throughout this entire thing. We’re all doing what we can right now. I’m staying ready. Who knows when we’re going to play football at this point. I’ve been able to stay in shape though. When we get back to football, I’ll be playing at a heavier weight than I have in the past.
JM: We love to hear that. I thought you had a great season in 2019. You started 12 games, had 69 tackles, 10 of which went for a loss. Did you expect to breakout in the manner that you did?
ME: I knew I was going to be playing a lot of football last season. In a sense, I was thrown into the fire. The coaches had a lot of trust in me. That made me trust myself. They inspired me to have more confidence in myself.
I got better and better as the season went on. I was glad to put some good stuff on tape. I think I showed a lot of people that I’m not a one-hit wonder. We have so many great players on this defense, especially at the linebacker position. They put me in a great spot to take advantage of the opportunities. I had a great experience last season.
⚪ LB Spotlight ⚪— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) August 21, 2020
Milo Eifler - Illinois
• Eifler a Washington Transfer had a big season in 2019. Last season he totaled 63 Tackles, 10 Tackles for Loss, 2 Sacks and 1 TD. pic.twitter.com/AGbiY7eJSS
JM: Last season’s success was especially big for you given that you had to sit out the 2018 season due to the transfer rules. What did you learn while spending that year on the sidelines?
ME: I learned a lot about how teams like to play in The Big Ten. As far as I knew, I was used to Pac-12 football. The Big Ten is a different ballgame. The styles of play between the two conferences are very different. They throw the ball a lot more in the Pac-12. I learned a lot about run schemes during my year off.
Coming to Illinois and the Midwest was a big adjustment for me in general. It’s a country town, so to speak. It’s a big campus in a small town. I had to soak it all up. Sitting on the sidelines was obviously tough for me. All I wanted to do was be out there with my teammates.
JM: How do you look back on the decision to transfer from Washington to Illinois?
ME: That was a big decision. When I entered the transfer portal, I didn’t necessarily know where I was going to end up. Luckily, I knew a few of the coaches here at Illinois. I knew a couple of the players as well. Those guys made it an easy transition for me. The coaching staff gave me the rundown on what they’re all about.
When I really started to consider Illinois and I began learning all about the program, it wasn’t a hard decision. I made my mind up rather quickly when it came down to it. I’m so glad I came here.
JM: What’s your favorite aspect of playing the linebacker position?
ME: You get to experience a little bit of everything. We have to play in both the run game and the passing game. We can blitz and try to get after the quarterback as well. You’re the jack of all trades.
You’re not focused on covering the same person the entire game. We’re like the quarterback of the defense. Everything runs through us. I like having that level of trust from the coaching staff. We have to play fast and smart. I need to understand the assignment of every player on my defense. It’s a lot of fun.
Illinois LB Milo Eifler is one of the top returning defensive players in the Big Ten West. https://t.co/84tc4xk4US— Mitch Sherman (@mitchsherman) July 1, 2020
JM: What can you tell me about the scheme Illinois runs on defense?
ME: It’s pretty simple. Coach [Lovie] Smith has been running defenses for a long time now. We basically run an NFL scheme here. We like our matchups. We’re always very aware of the opportunities that may present themselves. I’m the WILL linebacker in our scheme. I play in space. It depends on what we’re doing. We have so many great players on defense. It allows us to play straight up football. We like to play it how we play it.
JM: It must be such an honor to play for coach Smith. What’s that like?
ME: He’s a Hall of Fame coach in my eyes. He’s a player’s coach. He understands what we go through. He’s just a phenomenal person and coach in general. He’s coached a lot of great linebackers. He understands defense at such a high level. He spends a lot of time with us. He always has a new wrinkle to add to the defense. Our defense is his brainchild. It feels like he has a new tip for us every day. I’m very appreciative of him.
JM: That’s great. In closing, what’s next for Milo Eifler?
ME: I’m focused on graduating right now. I’m currently on track to graduate in December. That’s the only thing I have on my plate right now.