24 days to Camp Rantoul

For 50 days, we're ranking the most important Illini for the 2010 season.

No. 24: Akeem Spence, defensive tackle

Why he's important: He was already going to be in the rotation at defensive tackle. Then, Josh Brent got into academic hot water, forcing him to give up college football and enter the NFL supplemental draft (seventh round pick by the Cowboys). That puts the redshirt freshman from Florida into a must-play situation. He has the girth to make it work, topping the scales at better than 300 pounds. The experience will have to come in the opener against Missouri and beyond. He is still very young and won't turn 19 until late in the season. He performed well in the spring as the coaches prepared for the strong possibility that Brent wouldn't be back. He'll be tested early in the season as opponents run away from Corey Liuget.

Fast fact: Former shot and discus thrower picked Illinois over North Carolina State, Iowa State, Syracuse, South Florida and others.

Tomorrow: No. 23

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