Counting down the 50 most important Illini
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No. 4: Michael Buchanan, defensive end.
Why he's important: He isn't likely to record 16 sacks, but who knows. Would you have guessed Whitney Mercilus would tie Simeon Rice's school record for quarterback smacks before the start of last season? Didn't think so. No matter what the sack total ends at for Buchanan, it figures to be significant. He's got a lot of help on the defensive line, which will mean opposing offenses won't be able to focus just on him. And the Tim Banks defense will allow Buchanan to float from spot to spot, adding to his unpredicabiliity and effectiveness. He suffered a summer setback when his jaw was broken, but he recovered quickly and was able to maintain his size and strength. Undersized most of his career, Buchanan is now at a weight where offensive tackles can't just chuck him to the side. Buchanan also has plenty of motivation to finish big, starting with the chance to impress NFL scouts. He is already on the radar and has a chance to move up in the NFL draft.
Fast fact: High school teammate of Illinois safety Supo Sanni, Buchanan made a signing day decision to attend Illinois after also considering Purdue, Michigan State, Cal and others.
Tomorrow: No. 3