The Illini discuss what they're playing for this weekend agaisnt Minnesota…
The Dirty Dozen -- Version 11.0
12. Ryan Lankford: (last week: 11) - Lankford had more catches against Penn State (7) than he's had in the past three games combined (6). He hasn't scored a touchdown since Oct. 6 against Wisconsin, but remains in the Dirty Dozen because he still leads the team in touchdowns scored with five. If that last sentence made anybody run out into traffic, I'm not responsible. 11. Jon Davis: (not rated) - He's No. 3 in your program and No. 1 in your 'where the heck did that guy go' power rankings. He popped back into relevance last week with 41 total yards on 10 touches and a rushing score. His insertion into the backfield was like unexpectedly finding a lifeboat on the Titantic after hitting that massive second quarter iceberg. 10. Glenn Foster: (not rated) - If it wasn't for Tim Kynard, Glenn Foster would be the 'defensive starter that nobody ever talks about.' So… Yeah… What do you want to talk about? Kidding. Both of those guys play hard. Foster had seven tackles last week and is now second on the team with five tackles for loss. 09. Darius Millines: (9) - Millines has five catches in three of the last four games. Sadly, the go-to play in the pass game is: snap the ball, Scheelhaase run for your life, try to hit Millines for a short gain if you don't die. 08. Nathan Scheelhaase: (7) - Just. Stay. Alive. 07. Donovonn Young: (3) - The Yo-Yo -- Young's ranking the last four weeks: 3, 6, 9, 2, 9. If you don't have a consistent running game, really, what do you have? As I've said before, Young, in my opinion, has the most pro potential of anybody not named Pocic on offense. I don't know if that's a compliment or what, but yeah. 06. Jonathan Brown: (2) - Still the team's leading tackler, JB can't catch a break. He was just getting back healthy from the ankle and then he hurt his shoulder. He's out for this weekend's game -- and potentially for the season. Brown was like Spike on the Little Giants. Maybe he'll be playing for the Cowboys soon, too. 05. Terry Hawthorne: (8) - 10 tackles, a sack, 158 return yards -- that was the TH everybody was expecting to see all season. Injuries can be a cold winter though, chilling even the hottest of hot sauce. Hopefully Hawthorne's days in the training room are behind him and he finishes his career off strong. I don't even have anything funny to say -- this dude deserves a run of good health, even if it's only for three or four games. 04. Michael Buchanan: (5) - Buchanan is first on the team in tfl-s-int-brup-qbh-ff with 18.5. You know, the sum of tackles for loss, sacks, interceptions, pass breakups, QB hurries and forced fumbles. And they said sabermetrics wouldn't take hold on the gridiron. Ha! In case you're wondering, Brown is second with 12.5. Take a guess who's third? That's right, Gary Johnson. 03. Akeem Spence: (6) - Spence is from Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., home to actor Rick Malambri, who starred in a movie once called Step Up. And that folks, is three degrees of something somebody needs to do this weekend. 02. Mason Monheim: (4) - I always wonder why we say certain things in sports -- I'm talking about the simple phrases. Like, who was the first person to say, "We 'beat' that team." Not we won or we were better. But, we beat. It seems second nature now, but I wonder what happened in the game that led to such a description. Anyway, I was thinking about something clever to write here and kept circling back to the fact that Monheim has been such a bright spot on this team, given the tough times and the fact that such a young player could hold his own. And what provides the most obvious bright spots found outside of sports? Stars. Hmmmm… Maybe that's how that one got started, back in 1913 or something. 01. Ashante Williams (1) - Williams provided all of you gamblers out there with a moment of relief (or anguish, depending on how you bet) when he recovered a fumble and raced 77 yards for a touchdown. The score momentarily put Illinois in line to cover the ridiculous 27.5 point spread, but the Buckeyes added a meaningless score with less than two minutes to go that probably cost more than a handful of children some Christmas presents this year. First lesson -- never bet on a 27.5-point underdog if the team is on the road and/or named Illinois. Second lesson -- with that score Williams now has two touchdowns on the season. Illinois as a team only has 21, meaning Williams has 9.5 percent of all Illini touchdowns scored. I spent about 20 minutes scanning national stats, because you know, I have 20 extra minutes laying around to look stuff look. Only Fresno State's Phillip Thomas and Stanford's Ed Reynolds have more defensive touchdowns this year -- each with 3. Fresno State has 52 total TDs as a team, so Thomas has accounted for five percent. That's not even close to Ashante! Stanford has 33 total scores, with Reynolds' offering 9.09 percent. That's a close call, but my research (always fuzzy) and math (always fuzzier) says Ashante Williams is the most valuable defensive player -- not at Illinois -- but in the nation. And taking it one step farther, with his 77-yard return against Ohio State and 60-yard score in the season opener, the senior is averaging 68.5 yards every time he touches ball. My conclusion -- just give Ashante the damn ball! EDIT: Ashante recovered another fumble earlier this season, but didn't gain any yards. So, he's actually averaging only 45.6 yards per touch. Maybe it's best he not get the ball after all. So that's the Dirty Dozen, version 10.0. Until next week, the rest are steady chasing Williams. Check back each week for the latest installment. T-shirts sold on your way out -- oh, forget. Nobody's buying these shirts, are they? On the cusp: Earnest Thomas - he's had as solid a season as anybody on this list. New to the group: Davis, Foster Dropped out: Steve Hull, Justin DuVernois - out of mob punter! Biggest gain: Hawthorne, Spence, each up three spots. Biggest fall: Brown, Young, each down four. Top freshman: Mike Svetina - Had a rough go of it against Ohio State, but he's a tough kid and eager to learn. Fresh to death shoutout: To Tavon Wilson and Trulon Henry for showing up in Columbus and supporting the team from the sideline.
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