Counting down the 50 most important Illini for the 2014 season.
Counting down the 50 most important Illini.
No. 43: Jake Howe, DT
Why he’s important: Howe brings a veteran presence to the defensive line. Of the 15 defensive linemen Illinois has, only four were recruits brought in by Ron Zook. Howe is one of the quartet. The McHenry native didn’t come to Illinois initially pegged as a defensive tackle (fullback was his expected position), but it’s a role he has evolved into. Howe started the first six games last season before his playing time diminished with the emergence of a healthy Teko Powell, but he still wound up playing in all 12 games. Finished with 13 tackles on the season, with his best game coming against Miami (Ohio) when he made four tackles. Any help he can provide along the interior of the defensive line this year, be it in a reserve or starting role, could enhance a unit that was a main culprit for why Illinois was so bad at containing the run last season, giving up an average of 238.6 yards to rank last in the Big Ten and 116th in the country.
Fast fact: Howe was one of 21 football players to earn his degree in May at the UI commencement. The fifth-year senior graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.
Last year’s ranking: No. 32
Tomorrow: No. 42
No. 44: Joe Fotu