Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thin Secondary Holding Up

The Illini defensive secondary has (again) been hit hard with injuries. Two projected starters are out: safety Supo Sanni with a torn Achilles' tendon and cornerback Terry Hawthorne with a stress fracture in his right foot. Hawthorne should return when his foot heals, but Sanni is out for the season.

Safety Travon Bellamy, from Greenbelt, Md., has truly emerged as a leader in the backfield, as he currently is tied for second-most tackles on the team with 24, including a sack. He received a medical redshirt in 2007 due to a shoulder injury, and during his senior season of eligibility he is pursuing a graduate degree.

Sophomore Justin Green, from Louisville, Ky., was moved from running back to cornerback just before the season to strengthen the secondary. Green was recruited for defense coming out of high school, but he wanted to play running back, one of the reasons he choose Illinois. However, he's played well on the defensive side of the ball, with 19 tackles to date and solid pass defense. He's tied for first in both pass break-ups and pass deflections, with 4 each.

Trulon Henry, a safety in his junior year of eligibility, has taken a non-traditional route to the Illini secondary. The older half-brother of former Illini star Arrelious Benn, Henry is taking advantage of his second chance at football -- and an education. Henry was arrested and served time for his role in a robbery. After serving 5 years, he enrolled in a junior college -- College of Dupage in the Chicagoland area. Now married with a daughter, Henry is working hard to take advantage of these opportunities. And he's doing well, with 19 tackles so far this season, including 1 for loss.

Junior Tavon Wilson is a second-year starter in the secondary, and leads the team with 2 fumble recoveries. He also has 11 tackles and solid pass defense stats so far this season. He is tied with Green to lead the team in pass defense stats. Another Washington D.C. native, Wilson was raised by his grandmother after losing both his parents as a child.

The secondary is a known weakness on the Illini defense, but the entire unit has shown great improvement under new coordinator Vic Koenning. As the Illini prepare to face the top of the Conference, we will get a better sense of just how much they have improved.

Go Illini!

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