Counting down the 50 most important Illini
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No. 47: Jake Howe, defensive tackle.
Why he's important: Like No. 48 Austin Teitsma, he is being looked to provide relief on the line. Like Teitsma, he has the brains to handle any changes in the defensive scheme (Academic All-Big Ten). Like Teitsma, he redshirted in 2010, then saw playing time as a backup and on special teams in 2011. Bigger than Teitsma at 290, Howe has been able to watch and learn from Corey Liuget and Whitney Mercilus. He isn't ready to move into the starting lineup, but can give the first-stringers a break. Position coach Keith Gilmore likes to rotate players at all four spots. The more guys he can count on, the better the defense will play in the latter stages of games.
Fast fact: He was more than just a talented defensive player at McHenry High School. Howe was also a threat on offense, running for 523 yards and catching 41 passes for another 414.
Tomorrow: No. 46