Dear Bob – You’re Doing It Wrong (Part 5) July 6, 2009
The top three? Unquestionable. Even CFN agrees that Juice, Rejus, and Tez are our three best players. No matter what order you put them, the success of the 2009 Illini rests on their three Lou-sculpted shoulders.
#10 Michael Hoomanawanui – Yes, I spelled it right without looking it up. I have three goals for Hoo-man, who should flourish under the take-care-of-the-ball playcalling of MIke Schultz: 1) Catch 48 balls, 7 of them touchdowns. 2) Show the NFL scouts he not only has great hands, but can also devastatingly finish a block, and 3) Convince CJ Fiedorowicz that a tight end can dominate in our spread option offense.
#9 Mikel LeShoure – I’m fully convinced that LeShoure can be our feature tailback this fall. The next in a long history of Illinois athletes wearing #5 who break their jaw, lose some weight, and dominate upon their return, the leaner, meaner LeShoure looked nothing short of fantastic both on film and in person. I like having a go-to guy in the backfield (as opposed to tailback by committee), and this fall, I’m a Mikel Man.
#8 Tavon Wilson – It was tough putting a second-year cornerback with zero starts on his resume here in the eight hole. Thinking about it, he should probably be in the top 5. All he has to do is replace the #25 pick from this spring’s NFL draft, become a shut-down corner from start #1, and lead the secondary in tackles like his predecessor. Oh, and intercept a few balls, break up a few more, and cover the other team’s speediest receiver. No pressure.
#7 Ian Thomas – If there’s on position where Illini fans are worried, it’s linebacker. Putting aside the Martez in the Middle concerns for a second, one thing is certain: we MUST find at least one other capable linebacker from a crop of not-so-highly recruited no-names. And that no-name has a name: Ian Thomas. Was the supposed “sleeper” recruit of the class of 2007, it’s now his turn to step it up. In an era where strongside linebackers are more safety that linebacker, we’ll need Thomas flying all over the field. Here’s hoping he’s up to the task, because behind him is, well, um, lemme get back to you.
#6 Jeff Allen – I watched him for one entire set of downs in the Spring Game. And he absolutely ate Antonio James for lunch. I felt like I was watching a high school highlight tape where a tackle prospect manhandles his opponents. He just looked awesome. Yes, he’s young. But he’s also coming off a few freshman All-American teams. With Body By Lou and improved technique, I see no reason he can’t be an NFL tackle some day. Whereas Xavier Fulton looked bulky and awkward out there at times, Jeff Allen just looks smooth. I could change my life to better suit his mood.
#5 Donsay Hardeman – The most important body part on the 2009 Illini? Donsay Hardeman’s fused neck vertebrae. If he can play injury free and hit like he used to, then we’re in for a treat. If it’s still an issue through the season – or, more likely, if he can’t go all out over the middle for fear of permanent injury – then we’re in for a long season. He’s a vital part to our secondary. Like “add one or two more losses if he can’t go” vital.
#4 Corey Liuget – I covered Mr. Luiget on Friday, so I’ll just say this: If he has the type of year he’s capable of, he can easily start showing up on preseason All American lists next fall. Speaking of preseason All American lists…
#3 Arrelious Benn – I struggled with ranking the top 3. It’s clear that for our 2009 football team to succeed, the big three of Benn, Wilson, and Williams (omigosh – sorry about the spoilers) has to produce. The only question is the order. So my thinking was this: If Juice doesn’t produce, our offense is doomed. And if Tez can’t imitate J or Brit, our D is toast. So therefore, I’m ranking our best player third. Best player? Yes, by a country mile. I was excited to see Vontae stay in the first round back in April. Because juniors-going-in-the-first-round will be a great selling point for Zook in the years to come. “Well, we had Mendenhall go early in the 2008 draft, and Davis in 2009, and Benn in ’10, plus Liuget in ’11, and Hawthorne in ’12…”
#2 Martez Wilson – It’s worth noting here before we go any further. The three most publicized recruits of the first 5 years of the Zook era? Benn, Wilson, and Williams. Our three best players and the key to our season this fall? Benn, Wilson, and Williams. For Tez, it’s as simple as this: He’s top-10 in all of college football in athletic ability. He’s the dream that Loren Tate has had every August since the 70′s – the player with the best ratio of biggest/strongest/fastest in the Big Ten is wearing Orange and Blue. Now he has to put it all together. No more watching the running back on the delayed handoff and thinking “wow, I should really go tackle him” before putting his feet in motion. Read, react, tackle. And get paid millions if you can do it well.
#1 Juice Williams – I plan on putting together these lists for the next 50 years (including the 2027 National Championship season!). And I don’t think I’ll ever have an easier call ranking the #1 player. He was an Elite 11 QB as a high school senior. We watched him fail miserably as a true frosh, gain first down after first down at Ohio State in 2007, and go from red hot to ice cold in 2008. So now his legacy comes down to this. The schedule is favorable. He might have 3 NFL wideouts to throw to. He knows the offense inside and out. He has to possibility of finishing his Illinois career as the Big Ten career leader in total offense.
Now go do it.