Counting down the 50 most important Illini
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No. 43: Earnest Thomas, defensive back.
Why he's important: The Michigan product will take snaps at safety. He has shown his versatility during the early part of his Illinois career, working in both the secondary and as an outside linebacker. After sitting out the 2010 season as a redshirt, he played in 11 games in 2011, recording six tackles. That number figures to go up significantly. And if the Illini ever need some help in the backfield, Thomas was a talented two-way player in high school, scoring 13 touchdowns as a senior for St. Mary's, leading the school to a state title.
Fast fact: Brown was a popular recruit as a high school senior, drawing offers from Wisconsin, UCLA, Stanford, Penn State, Missouri and others.
Tomorrow: No. 42