Well, after neglecting this page for too long, we’re back to sum up Illinois’ hard-to-believe season.
After pulling off the biggest turnaround in the nation — from 2-10 to 9-3 — the Illini made the Rose Bowl and got skunked by USC 49-17. It wasn’t quite as bad as the score indicated, but it also proved there’s a good distance between Illinois and the nation’s truly elite programs.
When the final polls came out after LSU’s BCS title-game win over Ohio State, Illinois wound up at No. 20 according to the Associated Press and No. 18 per the coaches. That’s the school’s first Top 25 finish since the 2001 Big Ten champs.
Though Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Rashard Mendenhall is going to turn pro a year early — meaning 11 of Illinois’ 24 Rose Bowl starters won’t return — the Illini figure to be somewhere around No. 15 when the preseason polls come out in August.
Spring practice should commence in late March. And when it does, here’s what the depth chart might look like. This is the result of several conversations with players and coaches, as well as some educated guesses. This does not include the eight recruits who enrolled for the spring semester, including freshmen RB Mikel LeShoure, OT Graham Pocic, DL Whitney Mercilus, DB Ashante Williams, OL Jeff Allen, WR Fred Sykes and DT Reggie Ellis.
P.S.–Don’t forget to check out the scholarship chart and recruiting list at the bottom of this file.
(updated Jan. 17)
7 Juice Williams, Jr., 24 career starts; 4,553 total yards, 31 total TDs, 21 INT.
10 Eddie McGee, So., 597 total yards in 9 backup appearances; 4 TDs, 2 fumbles, 3 INT.
19 Phil Haig, r-Fr. (DNP, should redshirt)
12 Billy Garza, Sr., no career attempts (might not return for senior year).
14a Ryan Baise, r-Fr. (walkon)
22 Daniel Dufrene, Jr., 47 carries, 294 yards, 2 TDs.
29 Troy Pollard, r-Fr., 23 carries, 148 yards (recovering from torn ACL).
34 Walter Mendenhall, Sr., 6 carries, 62 career yards (will he return for his senior year with his brother, Rashard, off to the league?).
30 Rahkeem Smith, Jr., 1 career start. 1 catch for 8 yards.
34 Walter Mendenhall, Sr., 62 career yards (will he return?).
17 Jeff Cumberland, Jr., 7 career starts, 28 catches, 475 yards, 4 TDs.
21 Kyle Hudson, Sr., 24 career starts; 73 career catches, 999 yards, 5 TDs (will he return for his senior year or concentrate on baseball?).
80 Alex Reavy, So. (walk-on; does not travel)
23 Jack Eastman, Jr., no college experience (walk-on; does not travel)
9 Arrelious Benn, So., 11 career starts, 54 catches for 676 yards, 2 TDs; 32 rushes for 158 yards.
6 Chris James, So., 3 career starts; 5 catches, 76 yards, 0 TDs. (receiving medical redshirt for torn ACL in left knee, but practiced for Rose Bowl and should be fine for spring ball.
26 Brian Gamble, So., 2 career starts; 16 catches for 170 yards, 1 TD; 8 rushes for 40 yards (could move back to safety).
3 Marques Wilkins, Jr., 3 catches for 78 yards, 1 TD.
13 Will Judson, Sr., 6 catches for 30 yards.
86 Greg McClendon, Sr.
16 Mike Hoomanawanui, Jr., 9 career starts; 5 catches for 64 yards, 2 TDs, 1 2-pt. conversion.
89 Tom Sullivan, Jr., 1 start in 2006; no catches (walk-on).
85 Mike Nabolotny, Sr., OL played as extra tight end in short-yardage situations.
68 Xavier Fulton, Sr., 13 career starts at OT.
79 Craig Wilson, r-Fr.
78 Ryan Palmer, So., Subbed in 11 games.
73 Jack Cornell, r-Fr.
62 Eric Block, Sr., Subbed in most games in 2007.
66 Randall Hunt, So. (DNP)
60 Ryan McDonald, r-Jr., 36 career starts; all-Big Ten second-team pick. Missed three snaps all of 2007.
62 Eric Block, Sr.
57 Mike Garrity, r-Fr.
65 Mike Nabolotny, Sr.
52 Jon Asamoah, Jr., 13 career starts.
74 Brandon Jordan, So. (DNP)
75 Mark Jackson, r-Fr.
78 Ryan Palmer, So.,
72 C.J. Jackson, Jr., no college experience
38 Matt Brandabur, So. (walk-on; does not travel)
84 Matt Eller, r-Fr. (walk-on; does not travel)
59 Tad Keely, So., appeared in Rose Bowl when four-year starter Kyle Knezetic got hurt.
35 Michael Cklamovski, Jr. (walk-on; third-year starter)
81 Will Davis, Sr., 11 career starts; 59 tackles, 16 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 16 QBH.
91 Derek Walker, Sr., 31 career starts; 77 tackles, 17.5 TFL, 9 sacks, 18 QBH.
90 Antonio James, Jr., 15 tackles in 24 games, 2 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, 2 QBH.
92 Josh Brent, So., 8 tackles in 10 games, 2 TFL, 0.5 sack.
56 Sirod Williams, Sr., 24 tackles in 22 games, 2 TFLs, 1 QBH, 1 FF.
58 Bryson Whalen, Jr. (walk-on)
55 Anterio Jackson, So. (DNP)
94 David Lindquist, Sr., 15 career starts; 88 tackles, 13 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, 8 QBH, 5 FR.
33 D’Angelo McCray, r-Fr., (using medical redshirt to heal high school knee injury.
98 Daryle Bellew, r-Fr. (redshirted in 2007)
95 Doug Pilcher, Jr., 19 career starts; 49 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, 9 QBH.
99 Jerry Brown, So., 9 tackles in 13 games, 3.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 4 QBH.
97 Clay Nurse, So., (DNP).
44 Brit Miller, Sr., 23 career starts; 151 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, 2 sacks, 2 INT, 1 FF, 6 PBU.
45 Rodney Pittman, Sr., 1 start, 15 tackles in 35 games, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 QBH.
48 Erique Robertson, So., 3 tackles in 7 games on special teams.
43 Sam Carson III, Sr., 32 tackles in 29 games, 2.5 TFLs.
38 Ian Thomas, r-Fr. (redshirted)
2 Martez Wilson, So., 29 tackles in 13 games; 3 TFLs, 2 sacks, 2 QBH.
28 Dere Hicks, Jr., 14 career starts; 60 tackles, 2 INTs, 5 PBU, 1.5 TFLs, 1 FF.
14 Marcus “Miami” Thomas, So., 1 career start, 17 tackles in 12 games, 1 INT, 0.5 TFL.
27 Antonio Gully, So., (played a fistful of special-teams snaps).
1 Vontae Davis, Jr., 23 career starts; 128 tackles, 5 INT, 14 PBU, 6.5 TFLs, 2 blocked punts, 1 TD.
15 Chris Duvalt, Jr., 6 tackles in 17 games.
27 Antonio Gully, So.
24 Bo Flowers, So., 5 tackles in 13 games primarily on special teams and as “dime” back (walk-on).
18 Nate Bussey, So., 9 tackles in 13 games on special teams.
31 Travon Bellamy, So., 1 start in 2006; 15 tackles in 11 games, 2 INT, 2 PBU, 2 QBH (underwent shoulder surgery and missed 2007 season).
18 Nate Bussey, So., 9 tackles in 13 games on special teams.
20 Garrett Edwards, So., 1 tackle.
35 Darius Purcell, r-Fr.
87 Anthony Santella, So., 13 career starts; 64 punts, 2,410 yards, 37.7 avg., 17 inside 20, 5 touchbacks, no blocks.
37 Kyle Yelton, Jr., 12 career starts; 50 punts, 1,872 yards, 37.4 avg., 6 inside 20, 6 touchbacks, 1 blocked.
36 Jared Bosch, r-So., 8 punts, 35.1 avg., 1 inside 20 (walk-on).
QB: Williams 13.
RB: R. Mendenhall 13.
FB: Weil 6, R. Smith 1.
Z: Hudson 9, Warren 1.
X: Willis 10, Morgan 2, Cumberland 1.
Slot: Benn 12, Gamble 2, Wilkins 1.
TE: Hoomanawanui 5, Cumberland 2.
LT: Fulton 13.
LG: O’Donnell 13.
C: McDonald 13.
RG: Asamoah 13.
RT: Millington 13.
K: Reda 13.
Holder: Lenti 13.
LS: Knezetic 13.
LDE: Walker 8, W. Davis 5.
DT: Norwell 13.
DT: Lindquist 13.
RDE: Pilcher 9, W. Davis 4.
WLB: Steele 13.
MLB: Leman 13.
SLB: Miller 10, Pittman 1, Sanders 2 (nickel).
LCB: Hicks 13.
RCB: Davis 12, Thomas 1.
SS: Harrison 12, Sanders 1.
FS: Mitchell 13.
P: Santella 13.
STARTS LOST FROM 2006:
OFFENSE (92 of 132 starts retained):
QB: Tim Brasic 3.
RB: Pierre Thomas 9, E.B. Halsey 1.
FB: Thomas 1.
WR: Derrick McPhearson 7, Jody Ellis 4.
LT: Jim LaBonte 2.
RG: Matt Maddox 11, James Ryan 1.
RT: LaBonte 1.
DEFENSE (109 of 132 starts retained):
NG: Josh Norris 11.
CB: Alan Ball 12.
- ILLINI BY CLASS:
(scholarships only <62/85 at present>; *-denotes originally a Ron Turner recruit)
SENIORS/JUNIORS OUT THE DOOR (23):
*OL Amundsen, Ben
*S Harrison, Justin
RB Haney, Maurice (walk-on)
FB Ijei, Justin (walk-on)
*LS Knezetic, Kyle
*MLB Leman, J
*WR Lenti Jr., Frank (former walk-on)
*S McMahon, Drew (walk-on)
OT Millington, Akim
*S Mitchell, Kevin
*OT Myles, Charles
*DT Norwell, Chris
*OG O’Donnell, Martin
*K Reda, Jason
*S Rouse, Tyler (former walk-on)
S Sanders, Justin
OLB Steele, Antonio
*OLB Thornhill, Anthony
QB Venegoni, Mark (walk-on)
DT Ware, Mike (former walk-on)
*WR Warren, DaJuan
*FB Weil, Russ
WR Willis, Jacob
2008 SENIORS (18):
C Block, Eric
*LB Carson III, Sam
DE Davis, Will
RB Dufrene, Daniel
*OT Fulton, Xavier
*QB Garza, Billy (might not return)
*WR Hudson, Kyle (rumored to be sticking to baseball)
WR Judson, Will (former walk-on)
*DT Lindquist, David (former walk-on)
WR McClendon, Greg
*C McDonald, Ryan
*RB Mendenhall, Walter
*OLB Miller, Brit
*OL Motuliak, Dan (might not return)
OL/TE Nabolotny, Mike
LB Pittman, Rodney
*DE Walker, Derek
DT Williams, Sirod
2008 JUNIORS (16):
OL Asamoah, Jon
OL Bergen, Will (perhaps seeking medical non-counter?)
TE Cumberland, Jeff
CB Davis, Vontae
CB Duvalt, Chris
WR Fayson, Jarred (Florida transfer who’ll redshirt 2008 and have two years remaining)
CB Hicks, Dere
TE Hoomanawanui, Michael
OT Jackson, C.J.
DE James, Antonio
WR Morgan, Joe (not expected back)
*DE Pilcher, Doug
LB Smith, Rahkeem
WR Wilkins, Marques
QB Williams, Juice
P Yelton, Kyle
2008 SOPHOMORES (19):
DB Bellamy, Travon
WR Benn, Arrelious
DT Brent, Josh
DE Brown, Jerry
S Bussey, Nate
S Edwards, Garrett
WR Gamble, Brian
DB Gully, Antonio
OL Hunt, Randall
DT Jackson, Anterio
WR James, Chris
LB Jefferson, Dustin
OG Jordan, Brandon
QB McGee, Eddie
DL Nurse, Clay
OT Palmer, Ryan
LB Robertson, Erique
CB Thomas, Marcus
LB Wilson, Martez
2008 REDSHIRT FRESHMEN (10):
DT Ballew, Daryle
OL Cornell Jr., Jack
OL Garrity, Mike
QB Haig, Phil
OT Jackson, Mark
DT McCray, D’Angelo
RB Pollard, Troy
S Purcell, Darius
MLB Thomas, Ian
OT Wilson, Craig
INCOMING FRESHMEN WHO’VE ALREADY ENROLLED (7):
OL Allen, Jeffrey
DT Ellis, Reggie
RB LeShoure, Mikel
DE Mercilus, Whitney
OL Pocic, Graham
WR Sykes, Fred
CB Williams, Ashante
WALKONS LISTED ON ROSE BOWL ROSTER (21):
WR Bailey, Kevin
QB Baise, Ryan
P Bosch, Jared
K Brandabur, Matt
K Cklamovski, Michael
WR Eastman, Jack
K Eller, Matt
S Flowers, Bo
LB Gillen, Conor
DB Harweger, Andrew
LS Keely, Tad
OL Knuth, Cole
FB Levanti, Nick
S Locksley Jr., Mike
RB Pacha, Tyler
S Petruzzello, Tony
WR Reavy, Alex
P Santella, Anthony
S Stunkard, Cody
TE Sullivan, Tom
DE Whalen, Bryson
COMMITTED RECRUITS PER RIVALS.COM
Incoming Juniors (2):
*–denotes already enrolled
*WR Fayson, Jarred (Florida transfer must sit out 2008 season; listed in UIUC phonebook).
S Hardeman, Donsay
Incoming Freshmen (26):
QB Charest, Jacob
RB Ford, Jason
RB Hodge, Deries (could be academic casualty)
*RB LeShoure, Mikel
WR Jenkins, A.J.
WR Scott, Cordale
*WR Sykes, Fred
Slot Ramsey, Jack
TE Davis, London
TE Graham, Hubie
*OL Allen, Jeffrey
*OL Pocic, Graham
OL Sands, Tyler
OL Sedlacek, Ryan
DE Foster, Glenn
DE Liuget, Corey
*DT Ellis, Reggie
*DT Mercilus, Whitney
LB Ellington, Russell
LB Frierson, Evan
LB Palmer, Nate
LB Sanni, Supo
LB Staples, Justin
CB Nixon, Patrick
*CB Williams, Ashante
CB Wilson, Tavon