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No. 1: Juice Williams, quarterback.
Why he's important: One of the most scrutinized players in Illinois history. The numbers don't lie. He will finish first at Illinois in career total offense and has a chance to become the Big Ten's career total offense leader. His passing percentage, yardage and touchdowns have improved each season. He has rushed for 2,050 yards, the best ever by an Illinois quarterback. The coaches would like to see his 719 rushing yards in 2008 drop this season. He already has a signature win, beating No. 1 Ohio State at Columbus in 2007. He also set building total offense records last season in St. Louis, Illinois and Michigan. A preseason Heisman candidate who will need to drop his interception number (16 in 2008) if he wants to have a chance. If Illinois puts together a big season, he will receive and deserve much of the credit.
Getting personal: A team leader, Williams had to learn how to play quarterback on and off the field at Illinois. He jumped into it and has thrilled the coaches with his dedication. Went to the same high school (Chicago Vocational) as Illini and Bears legend Dick Butkus. Friendly away from the field, Williams has been a hit with fans, especially kids. He's the football version of basketball's Dee Brown. He has helped recruit many of the top players in recent classes. Has a young daughter, LaChez.