How'd Illinois look Saturday? Here are grades courtesy beat writer BOB ASMUSSEN:
QUARTERBACKS (B minus)
The good news for fans of passing, they kept busy. Five quarterbacks combined to throw 72 passes, completing 40. It wasn't a bad percentage. And, to their credit, they weren't intercepted despite the intentions of the turnover-hungry defense. Terry Hawthorne almost got one late in the game. The downside, of course, was the low number of touchdown passes (one) or long plays.
RUNNING BACKS (B plus)
Any time a running back gains 7.5 yards per carry, the coaches and fans will be happy. That was Josh Ferguson's yardage Saturday. He got a large chunk of his 150 yards on a 68-yard burst. He showed why he was named the team's most improved offensive player this spring. Donovonn Young is still recovering from a foot injury and is expected to be fully ready for the season.
RECEIVERS (C plus)
Remember, the group was missing maybe its top player, injured Darius Millines. Hawthorne tried to make up for it with one big catch. But there were too many drops, both from guys in the rotation and deep backups. The two leading receivers in the game were a running back (Ferguson) and a quarterback (Miles Osei). Jon Davis, Matt LaCosse and Kenny Knight showed potential with big catches.
OFFENSIVE LINE (C minus)
Hope Luke Butkus doesn't look to pummel us after reading this, but he knows as well as anyone that his guys have work to do. End Michael Buchanan and pals continuously exploited the line. When it happens during the Big Ten season, the defenders won't pat the quarterback, they'll stick him in the ground. Hard. Look for some possible juggling of positions before the opener.
DEFENSIVE LINE (A)
Not only did Michael Buchanan have 4.5 sacks, he also led the team with 12 tackles. He made a wise decision in returning for the 2012 season, one that should pay off in the 2013 NFL draft. Buchanan has plenty of help, starting with tackles Akeem Spence and Glenn Foster, who each had five tackles. The other end spot is in capable hands with Tim Kynard and Justin Staples.
LINEBACKERS (A minus)
Jonathan Brown was second to Buchanan with 10 tackles. He's an All-Big Ten contender with a high motor. Houston Bates finished with eight tackles, and backup Henry Dickinson had five. The fourth member of the crew, Ralph Cooper, made three stops. And the other linebacker spot, called the star, is in the capable hands of Ashante Williams, who had six tackles. His backup, Ta'Jarvis Fuller, is a find.
SECONDARY (B plus)
No real criticism of the crew, other than a missed interception or two. They played well against the top receivers and helped out on run support. And Justin Green saved a touchdown, running down Josh Ferguson on a 68-yard run. He's the anchor on the team's 4x100 relay. Safety Earnest Thomas piled up six tackles, which was important with Supo Sanni and Steve Hull not in the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS (C)
We didn't get to see any returns. That will have to wait until Western Michigan. The kickers missed 3 of 7 field goals, albeit all from a distance. The punters, who didn't face a rush, had solid averages. But the Blue team was under 40, a number that would have been reduced greatly by a rush. If Justin DuVernois is going to be the starting punter, he has to be consistent. Missed extra points are a no-no.