Illinois' Buchanan locked in for season

July, 26, 2012
7/26/12
1:30
PM ET
CHICAGO -- Illinois fans held their breath in June when standout defensive end Michael Buchanan suffered a broken jaw during an altercation.

Buchanan, a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2011 and a budding star, would have to have his jaw wired shut. His weight certainly would drop, and his recovery time was unknown.

Breathe easy, Illini Nation. Buchanan is just fine.

"I'm 100 percent," Buchanan told ESPN.com. "I've been eating for weeks now. I'm back to my normal weight and everything."

Buchanan actually is on pace to be heavier than he was last year (240). He'll check in around 250 pounds when the season kicks off in September.

He only had the jaw wired shut for a week -- his food consisted of anything you can put in a blender -- but the physical toll was minimal.

"Any time you break a jaw, you never know how long you're going to be wired up for," he said. "You're not going to be able to eat. But I was only wired up for a week, and right after that, I was able to pretty much eat normally."

Buchanan looks forward to feasting on opposing quarterbacks and running backs this fall. Although Illinois loses All-America end Whitney Mercilus -- he of the 16 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss and an NCAA-record nine forced fumbles in 2011 -- pretty much everyone else returns, including tackles Akeem Spence and Glenn Foster, and end Justin Staples.

"We want to be one of the best defensive lines in the country," Buchanan said. "We have the pieces to be that."

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