Thursday, September 23, 2010

Linebackers Start Strong

At the heart of the Fighting Illini defense, the linebackers have consistently been on top of their opponents. Their tackling has been solid, and they have done a good job of getting into the backfield for negative yards.

Here's a bit of background on the starting LB group:
Senior Nate Bussey, from the Washington D.C. area, went to high school with former Illini and current NFL players Vontae Davis and Arrelious Benn. A high school QB, Bussey converted to safety and then to OLB during the spring of 2009. So far this season, he's racked up 19 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss and two hard back-to-back hits on Mizzou's T.J. Moe (you may remember the second one, which made Moe lose his helmet).

Ian Thomas,
a redshirt junior from Berwyn Heights, Md., finished last season as the team leader in tackles, and ranked 10th in the Big Ten. That was after stepping in at MLB after Martez Wilson was hurt. On a personal note, he also helped care for his mother after she suffered a brain aneurism. Thomas is off to a strong start this season, playing opposite Bussey and tied for second in tackles on the team to date with 24 (4 for loss) and a fumble recovery.

Chicago Simeon standout Martez Wilson, has recovered from the herniated disc in his neck that kept him out of all but the opening game last season and earned him a medical redshirt. That makes him a junior in eligibility this year. Expectations for Wilson are high, and he's set lofty personal goals, as well. He's come a long way since he first took over at MLB during the spring of 2009. And so far he leads the Illini with 25 tackles, 3 of those for a loss.

A couple others in the LB rotation include senior and junior college transfer Aaron Gress from California and redshirt sophomore Justin Staples from Ohio. Staples as 10 tackles, including a sack, and Gress has 3 tackles.

This group has been hitting hard. Keep it up, guys!
Go Illini!

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