Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Meet the D-Line

So far, the Illini defense appears to be much improved over the 2009 edition. Much of the change likely can be attributed to new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning.

Here's a look at who Koenning has put on the line:
Corey Liuget
, a junior from Miami, was expected to be a leader on the D-line this season. So far, he has proven to be legit (also the correct pronunciation of his name). He actually dropped weight this season, which has helped him move more quickly. A 4-star recruit, he started a couple games as a freshman, and played all last season, starting four games. As a freshman, he ranked 5th in the Big Ten in fumble recoveries. To date this season, he's got 3 tackles for loss including a sack, and he's often one of the Illini jerseys around the football.

Whitney Mercilus, a redshirt sophomore from Akron, Ohio, took over a starting role after Michael Buchanan was suspended. Mercilus had 8 tackles in 11 games last season, and 3.5 were for loss. So far this season, he has 6 tackles -- two for loss, including a sack. He's got great potential this season and beyond.

Senior Clay Nurse, went to high school in Beltsville, Md., after immigrating from Georgetown, Guyana. He offered some insight into the new defensive mindset during spring ball, after earning all-Big Ten honorable mention in 2009. Nurse is starting at Bandit after Buchanan's suspension. He has yet to reach the level he played at much of last season, but his leadership and work ethic has helped change the defensive culture.

Akeem Spence
is a redshirt freshman from Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Spence is off to a solid start this season, as he has recorded 6 tackles, including a sack, in his first three games at this level. And he will improve with experience.

Redshirt sophomore Glenn Foster of Chicago is a key part of the D-line rotation so far.

Overall, this group has done a nice job penetrating into the backfield and keeping pressure on opposing QBs. As the level of competition increases with the beginning of the Big Ten season, these guys will be challenged. But if they can control the line, it could be a very exciting season.

Go Illini!

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