Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The Revolving Door: Illinois
By ESPN.com staff
Eighth in a series examining key players departing, staying and arriving at Big Ten schools.
Arrelious Benn, WR: He never reached the heights many thought he would after winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2007, but Benn still led Illinois in receiving yards for three consecutive seasons. Illinois' inconsistent offense hurt Benn last season, but his obvious talent and presence on the perimeter will be missed as the Illini transition to a new system under coordinator Paul Petrino this fall.
Jon Asamoah, OG: Like Indiana's Rodger Saffold, Asamoah was one of the Big Ten's more underrated linemen, in large part because his team struggled. But Asamoah provided a veteran presence up front and had the combination of superior skill and intelligence. The NFL clearly liked what it saw in Asamoah, a third-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in April.
Martez Wilson, LB: Wilson's 2009 season never got on track as he missed all but one game with a herniated disk in his neck. He seemed to be settling in well as the team's middle linebacker last summer and has a chance in 2010 to have the breakout season many have been waiting for. Wilson has the size and the skills to be special, but he's got to get it done on the field.
Clay Nurse, DE: Nurse was a presence on the defensive line down the stretch last season, leading Illinois in sacks (5.5), tackles for loss (10.5) and quarterback hurries (3). He's got the personality and attitude to be a valuable leader along the front four this fall, as Illinois tries to improve a group that ranked last in the Big Ten in sacks (19) in 2009.
Chandler Whitmer, QB: Jacob Charest's post-spring departure puts Whitmer, a true freshman, in the backup role behind Nathan Scheelhaase. Good thing that Whitmer enrolled early and went through spring practice with Petrino and the other quarterbacks. He drew praise from the coaches and displays good maturity both on and off the field.
Earnest Thomas, S: The one-time UCLA commit could be a factor right away in a secondary that has some competition but few lock-down certainties. The 6-1, 195-pound Thomas was highly recruited coming out of Michigan and will help Illinois at a position (safety) that hasn't be secure since Justin Harrison and Kevin Mitchell departed following the 2008 Rose Bowl.
More revolving door ...