2012 roster breakdown

2012 roster breakdown

We asked college football beat writer Bob Asmussen for a breakdown of Tim Beckman's Illinois team. Here goes ($$$ — denotes projected starter):



10 Chase Haslett 6-1 195 Fr. Clayton, Mo./Clayton

-After walking on at the start of his Illinois career, son of former Saints head coach went on scholarship during spring semester

13 Sean McGushin 6-2 215 Jr. St. Charles/North

-Walk-on was a standout in football and lacrosse in high school, earning seven letters and serving as captain in both sports

17 Jim Nudera 6-1 215 Fr. Elmhurst/York

-Redshirt in 2011 is a big wrestling fan, listing former Illini Mike Poeta and John Dergo as childhood heroes

8 Miles Osei 6-0 200 Jr. Mount Prospect/Prospect

-Sure, you will see him behind center. But you might also see him taking handoffs or catching passes from his QB cohorts

4 Reilly OToole 6-4 220 So. Wheaton/Wheaton Warrenville South

-News-Gazette All-State Player of the Year in 2010 threw for 270 yards and ran for another 47

$$$ 2 Nathan Scheelhaase 6-3 200 Jr. Kansas City, Mo./Rockhurst

-Has a chance to lead Illinois to four bowl victories, which would be a record for a Big Ten quarterback

Running backs

22 Dami Ayoola 5-10 205 Fr. Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas

-After picking Illini over Notre Dame, Auburn, Wisconsin and others, he figures to see early playing time. His name is pronounced DAY-me.

41 Zach Becker 6-3 250 Sr. Homer/St. Joseph-Ogden

-Played in 23 games during the 2008-09 seasons, but injuries have limited him to five games the past two years

$$$ 6 Josh Ferguson 5-10 185 Fr. Naperville/Joliet Catholic

-With Donovonn Young slowed by an injury in the spring, he impressed the new staff with his talents and durability

31 Les Poole 5-10 170 So. Schaumburg/Conant

-Business major, who was also a high school baseball player, joined the team during spring drills

28 LaKeith Walls 6-2 195 Fr. Cleveland/Rhodes

-Big guy, who has shown good hands early in training camp, picked Illinois over Cincinnati, Iowa, Louisville, Pitt and others

5 Donovonn Young 6-0 220 So. Houston/Katy

-Texan got his Illinois career off to a good start in 2011, gaining 451 rushing yards and scoring six touchdowns

Receivers/tight ends

29 Peter Bonahoom 6-2 200 Fr. Arlington Heights/Prospect

-After redshirting in 2011, the future lawyer is looking to add depth to Billy Gonzales' receiver rotation

21 Devin Church 5-8 190 Fr. Southfield, Mich./Brother Rice

-Not sure where to list him because he came to Illinois as a running back. He ran for 1,919 yards as a prep senior

7 Hayden Daniels 6-4 200 Fr. Naperville/Central

-Sitting out the 2011 season allowed the brother of NFL tight end Owen to gain size (15 pounds), strength and experience

$$$ 3 Jon Davis 6-3 240 So. Louisville, Ky./Middleton Eastern

-Named a third-team Freshman All-American by Phil Steele after catching 22 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown

24 James Hallendorff 6-2 205 Sr. Vernon Hills/Vernon Hills

-As a high school senior, playing for Tony Monken, he successfully quarterbacked his team during two-minute drills

84 Justin Hardee 6-1 190 Fr. Cleveland/Glenville

-Another top player from Ted Ginn Sr. powerhouse, being tried at receiver after coming to Illinois as a potential defensive back

$$$ 80 Spencer Harris 6-3 195 Jr. Greenwood, Ark./Greenwood

-Prep teammate of Arkansas star Tyler Wilson, he bumped his catch total from four as a frosh to 26 as a sophomore, including a second career TD

19 Kenny Knight 6-4 210 Fr. Beverly Hills, Mich./Country Day

-After sitting out 2011 as a redshirt, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall fan looking to move into Billy Gonzales' receiver rotation

40 Matt LaCosse 6-6 240 So. Naperville/North

-Plans to redshirt the former high school QB were shelved in 2011 when Zach Becker was lost early on. Caught one pass against Minnesota

$$$ 12 Ryan Lankford 6-0 175 Jr. Jacksonville, Fla./Paxon

-Son of a former NFL DB will help team with his receiving (12 grabs in 2011), running, returning and punting (averaged 46 yards in KFH Bowl)

88 Justin Lattimore 6-3 225 Jr. Tampa, Fla./Gaither

-Saw limited playing time in 2011, working four games mostly on special teams. His lone career catch went for a touchdown

85 Tim Lukas 6-4 200 Jr. Mount Prospect/Carthage College

-As much as Illini plan to throw the ball, a deep rotation could include the walk-on, who has college experience at a lower division

$$$ 15 Darius Millines 5-11 185 Jr. Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage

-Great expectations being placed on Floridian after he bumped his catch total from seven to 19

20 Fritz Rock 6-1 200 So. Golden Valley, Minn./Wayzata

-Former defensive back got into his first college game in 2011 but is looking for the first catch of his career. It should come early

86 Tim Russell 6-6 225 Jr. St. Charles/St. Charles

-Tight end will see the field every time there is a field goal or extra point, going into his second year as the team's starting holder

83 Eddie Viliunas 6-4 255 Sr. LaGrange Park/Lyons

-Former walk-on quarterback a valuable member of deep tight end crew after catching four passes in 2011

18 Jeremy Whitlow 6-2 200 Fr. Cleveland/Central Catholic

-After redshirting in 2011, Jerry Rice fan trying to move himself up the depth chart to guarantee college debut

89 Evan Wilson 6-6 250 Jr. Woodstock, Ga./Woodstock

-After two seasons, the tight end has 19 catches for 224 yards and five touchdowns

Offensive linemen

56 Shawn Afryl 6-3 310 So. Skokie/Niles West

-Political science major, a January 2010 enrollee, looking for his first playing time

64 Robbie Bain 6-3 290 Fr. Bolingbrook/Bolingbrook

-A year from now, he'll be joined by his high school quarterback Aaron Bailey, who helped Raiders to state title

55 Chris Boles 6-4 325 Fr. Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic

-Redshirt in 2011 picked Illinois over Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Toledo and others

68 Simon Cvijanovic 6-5 295 So. Cleveland/Benedictine

-Tackle, who started four games in 2011 and played in eight, is fighting to regain his starting spot

60 Tony Durkin 6-3 280 Fr. Tinley Park/Andrew

-Singer/video game fan, who picked Illinois over Minnesota, Arizona and others, looking for playing time after sitting out 2011 season

$$$ 67 Jake Feldmeyer 6-4 295 Jr. Centerville, Ohio/Centerville

-Smart guy (31 on his ACT) currently the top candidate to start at center replacing Graham Pocic, who has moved to guard

75 Pat Flavin 6-7 280 Fr. Lisle/Benet Academy

-With Pocic, Hugh Thornton and Tyler Sands leaving after this season, he figures to get a serious look at playing time in 2013

$$$ 74 Michael Heitz 6-5 305 So. Vermont/South Fulton

-Nine-game starter in 2011 figures to be in the lineup. The question is where, with guard and tackle as options

$$$ 52 Alex Hill 6-3 325 So. Slidell, La./Slidell

-Good news for the two-game starter on Friday, as he moved into the starting lineup during the first day of full contact

69 Ted Karras 6-4 300 Fr. Indianapolis/Cathedral

-After solid spring, son of a former Northwestern player trying to move up to starting spot at guard

70 Corey Lewis 6-6 310 Sr. Cresco, Pa./East Stroudsburg South

-Former starter continues to try to recuperate knee injury that has forced him to miss two full seasons

66 Scott McDowell 6-5 290 Fr. Hinsdale/Central

-Three-star high school recruit, who redshirted in 2011, picked Illinois over Cincinnati, Toledo, Northern Illinois and others

78 Ryan Nowicki 6-5 280 Fr. Glendale, Ariz./Cactus/Penn State

-Bet he didn't know he would cause a ruckus when the Illinois coaches came to visit him, and others, in State College

73 Chris OConnor 6-5 275 Fr. Tinley Park/Andrew

-Originally came to Illinois as a defensive lineman but switched over at the start of Camp Rantoul

$$$ 76 Graham Pocic 6-7 310 Sr. Lemont/Lemont

-Two-year starting center currently working at guard. Coaches feel comfortable with him at any of the three inside positions

61 Tyler Sands 6-5 300 Sr. Boyertown, Pa./Boyertown Area

-After starting two games the past three seasons, versatile inside player figures to be one of the first off the bench

71 Joe Spencer 6-4 290 Fr. Mason, Ohio/Mason

-Three-star recruit picked Illinois over South Florida, North Carolina State, Cincinnati and most MAC schools

$$$ 72 Hugh Thornton 6-5 310 Sr. Oberlin, Ohio/Oberlin

Back to where he started as a freshman, former Boise resident looking extremely comfortable at left tackle

Defensive linemen

$$$ 99 Michael Buchanan 6-6 240 Sr. Homewood/Homewood-Flossmoor

-Check out NFL draft boards for 2013 and the end ranks first among the Illinois draftees, with a chance to move into the first round

6 Darrius Caldwell 6-5 230 Fr. Atlanta/Mays

-Deion Sanders/Juice Williams fan should see his first playing time, backing up Buchanan, after redshirting in 2011

$$$ 91 Glenn Foster 6-4 280 Sr. Chicago/Mount Carmel

-Sociology major has a new number and a new body, putting on at least 20 pounds to prepare for his final season at tackle

95 Jake Howe 6-3 295 So. McHenry/McHenry

-After recording two tackles in 11 games last season, he is being counted on to be a key backup to Foster and Akeem Spence inside

47 Anthony Imanlihen 6-2 220 Fr. Chicago/Gordon Tech

-Walk-on being tried at end after spending his high school career at linebacker

$$$ 59 Tim Kynard 6-3 260 Jr. Toledo, Ohio/St. John's

-End will start the opening game in place of suspended Justin Staples, but wants to keep the job the next week at Arizona State

58 Kenny Nelson 6-6 245 Fr. Detroit/Cass Tech

-Redshirt in 2011 will be plenty familiar with opening opponent. He picked Illinois over Western Michigan

93 Teko Powell 6-3 295 Fr. Miami/Norland

-Following in the footsteps of friend Corey Liuget, he picked Illinois over Wisconsin, West Virginia, Louisville and others

87 Daniel Rhodes 6-3 290 Fr. Charlotte, N.C./Independence

-Originally part of the 2011 Illinois class, the converted tight end delayed his entry until spring 2012

$$$ 94 Akeem Spence 6-1 305 Jr. Fort Walton Beach, Fla./Fort Walton Beach

-Large tackle decided to come back for his junior season and has been rewarded by being named to Outland and Lombardi watch lists

54 Justin Staples 6-4 240 Sr. Lakewood, Ohio/St. Edward

-Will sit out the opener because of a suspension, but is practicing with the first unit and figures to get oodles of playing time at end

44 Austin Teitsma 6-2 280 So. Glen Ellyn/Glenbard South

-Backup tackle, who recorded three tackles in 2011, should see his playing time increase behind Spence and Foster

98 John Valentine 6-5 250 Fr. St. Louis/MICDS

-After redshirting in 2011, end entered training camp listed third on the depth chart

97 Vontrell Williams 6-4 300 Fr. Chicago/Mount Carmel

-Tackle candidate, a three-star recruit, picked Illinois over Indiana, Kansas, Northern Illinois, Toledo and others

90 DeJazz Woods 6-3 255 So. Tampa, Fla./Robinson

-High school wrestling champion played in one game during the 2011 season, recording two tackles against South Dakota State


$$$ 30 Houston Bates 6-3 240 So. Covington, La./St. Paul's

-Projected starter recorded 23 tackles in first college season, playing in all 13 games and starting twice

$$$ 45 Jonathan Brown 6-1 235 Jr. Memphis, Tenn./Christian Brothers

-Team's leading returning tackler with 108 stops, he is on the watch lists for five major awards in what could be his final college season

42 Ralph Cooper 6-1 230 So. Winnsboro, S.C./Fairfield Central

-Hoping to play major backup role after recording three tackles in limited time during his rookie season

48 Henry Dickinson 6-4 230 So. Memphis, Tenn./University High

-Student council officer in high school, backup recorded eight tackles in 11 games during his rookie year

28 Ta'Jarvis Fuller 6-1 190 Fr. Fort Myers, Fla./Dunbar

-After enrolling in January at Illinois, he quickly moved up the depth chart at star position behind Williams

15 Zepheniah Grimes 5-11 220 Fr. Bamberg, S.C./Bamberg-Ehrhardt

-Ricky Sapp fan, who has worked as a logger, entered training camp No. 3 on depth chart behind Bates, Dickinson

43 Mason Monheim 6-1 230 Fr. Orrville, Ohio/Orrville

-Three-star recruit picked Illinois over Akron, Kent State, Eastern Michigan, Toledo and others

52 T.J. Neal 6-1 230 Fr. McKeeseport, Pa./McKeeseport

-Rated the No. 16 prospect in Pennsylvania as a senior, he picked Illinois over Auburn, Pitt, Tennessee, West Virginia, Florida, Nebraska and others

32 Daniel Quintana 6-2 195 So. Berwyn/Westchester St. Joe

-Brother of a former Notre Dame player, he earned four high school letters in football and also wrestled

39 Nejee Robinson 6-2 240 Jr. Chicago/John Hope

-Community health major joined the team as a walk-on before the start of the 2010 season

40 Beau Sullivan 5-11 215 Jr. Decatur/Maroa-Forsyth

-Walk-on, a member of state title football and basketball teams, entered training camp listed third behind Brown, Cooper

34 Mike Svetina 6-2 230 Fr. Brunswick, Ohio/St. Ignatius

-Business major, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer Defensive POY in 2011, picked Illinois over Syracuse, Toledo, Ohio and others

38 Mike Valentine 6-1 215 Fr. Lemont/Providence Catholic

-Walk-on trying to find playing time while competing against returnees and three scholarship freshmen

$$$ 25 Ashante Williams 5-11 205 Sr. Mayfield, Ohio/Mayfield

-After starting 2011 season on suspended list, he played final 10 games and started KFH Bowl in place of injured Trulon Henry

Defensive backs

37 Austin Abner 6-0 195 Fr. Fort Thomas, Ky./Highlands

-Redshirt in 2011 knows what it's like to win championships, playing on state title teams all four years in high school

3 Taylor Barton 6-1 210 Fr. Orlando, Fla./Lake Highland Prep

-Florida all-stater as a senior, the safety picked Illinois over Syracuse, Temple, Troy and others

10 B.J. Bello 6-3 205 Fr. New Lenox/Lincoln-Way West

-Supo Sanni's cousin picked Illinois over Minnesota, Toledo, Western Michigan and others

2 V'Angelo Bentley 5-10 180 Fr. Cleveland/Glenville

-After playing at Ohio power for Ted Ginn Sr., he picked Illinois over Kansas, Pitt, Toledo, Ohio and others

17 Tommy Davis 5-11 205 Sr. East St. Louis/Althoff/Northern Illinois

-Three-year starter with the Huskies, he will help at safety and special teams in his one season with the Illini

22 Nick Forzley 5-9 180 So. Lemont/Lemont

-His three sisters could tell you that Graham Pocic's high school teammate played for two state football titles

$$$ 26 Justin Green 5-11 195 Sr. Louisville, Ky./Male

-Locked in as a starting cornerback for third consecutive year, former tailback standout looking for his first career interception

$$$ 1 Terry Hawthorne 6-0 190 Sr. East St. Louis/East St. Louis

-There's a real good chance you will see the All-American cornerback candidate helping out offense at receiver

5 Steve Hull 6-2 200 Jr. Cincinnati/Sycamore

-Slowed after shoulder surgery, projected starting safety isn't being rushed back onto the field

35 Davontay Kwaaning 5-11 185 Fr. Chicago/Lombard

-Walk-on candidate, who turns 19 later in August, joined the team for the first time during the spring

11 Jevaris Little 6-1 180 Fr. St. Petersburg, Fla./Lakewood

-Three-star high school recruit picked Illinois over Kansas, Indiana, Toledo and others

24 Nelson Lugo 5-11 195 Fr. Franklin Park/East Leyden

-Civil engineering major, an all-conference player in high school, recorded 238 solo tackles in three seasons

23 Ben Mathis 6-3 200 Jr. Springfield/Springfield

-Communications major, who has played in four career games, listed fourth on the depth chart at strong safety

29 Kaeman Mitchell 5-9 180 Jr. Champaign/Centennial

-Son of Kansas assistant coach Reggie, he made his college debut in 2011, recording a tackle against South Dakota State

4 Patrick Nixon-Youman 5-10 180 Sr. Jacksonville, Fla./Middleburg

-Versatile veteran will see time at safety and will also work at nickel after career-high 27 tackles in 2011

31 Nick North 6-1 195 Fr. Hollywood, Fla./McArthur

-Redshirt in 2011, he entered training camp listed second at free safety behind returning starter Supo Sanni

21 Jack Ramsey 5-11 200 Sr. Chicago/Simeon

-Don't be surprised to see backup cornerback, a former high school quarterback, take reps on offense at receiver

$$$ 7 Supo Sanni 6-3 220 Sr. Chicago Heights/Homewood-Flossmoor

-Free safety made successful return to team in 2011 after sitting out previous year with torn Achilles' tendon, recording career-best 49 tackles

27 Eaton Spence 6-0 180 Fr. Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Day

-After redshirting in 2011, he's got a key role as the team's No. 3 cornerback behind starters Hawthorne and Green

$$$ 9 Earnest Thomas 6-2 210 So. Orchard Lake, Mich./St. Mary's

-After spending time at outside linebacker in the spring, he is now the projected starter at strong safety in place of injured Steve Hull


$$$ 18 Justin DuVernois 6-1 190 So. Plantation, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas

-Back in front as starting punter, he averaged 38.3 yards on 53 attempts in 11 games his rookie year

13 Ryan Frain 6-2 220 Fr. Indianapolis/Scecina

-Candidate to be starting kicker, he hit four field goals beyond the 43 as a high school senior. He was also a top prep soccer player

49 Zach Hirth 6-4 200 Fr. Eureka, Mo./Eureka

-One of two freshman long snappers, he will likely compete next year to replace departing Zak Pedersen

$$$ 37 Nick Immekus 6-0 220 So. Wheaton/Wheaton Warrenville South

-High school teammate of quarterback Reilly O'Toole, walk-on entered training camp as leading kicking candidate

36 Brad Janitz 6-5 215 So. Cincinnati/Walnut Hills

-Walk-on punter, a business major, trying to move past DuVernois, Lankford on depth chart

85 Michael Martin 6-4 210 Fr. Champaign/Centennial

-Mechanical engineering major, son of former Illini swimmers, hoping to become team's long snapper in 2013

$$$ 46 Zak Pedersen 6-2 230 Sr. Joliet/Joliet Catholic

-Good guy (he organized a charity event during the summer), long snapper provides consistency coaches crave

87 Garrett Stroup 5-11 190 Fr. Rockford/Boylan

-Community health major, redshirt in 2011, helped Rockford Boylan win state title in 2010

83 Brennen VanMieghem 6-2 190 Fr. Metamora/Metamora

-Walk-on kicker, a redshirt in 2011, holds state record for points scored in a season by a kicker and season/career PATs

26 Taylor Zalewski 6-3 200 Fr. Orland Park/Sandburg

-Walk-on, who redshirted in 2011, competing with Frain, Immekus, others for starting kicking job



Tim Beckman/Head coach/Toledo head coach

-Led the Rockets to consecutive bowl bids before taking over at Illinois in December

Tim Banks/Defensive coordinator/safeties/Cincinnati co-defensive coordinator

-Like the team he inherits, his Bearcats ranked high nationally in key defensive statistics

Chris Beatty Co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks Vanderbilt receivers coordinator

-Outstanding recruiter was a top high school coach in Virginia before moving into college coaching in 2006

Billy Gonzales/Co-offensive coordinator/receivers/LSU passing game coordinator/receivers coach

-Last time he was on the field, his then-Tigers were playing Alabama in the BCS Championship game

Luke Butkus/Offensive line/Seattle Seahawks offensive line assistant

-Ex-Illini standout knows what it's like to win Big Ten title, helping team to the 2001 crown — the last time Illini won conference

Steve Clinkscale/Cornerbacks/Toledo cornerbacks/special teams coach

-One of three coaches to come with Beckman from the Rockets, he has also worked at his alma mater Ashland

Keith Gilmore/Defensive line/Cincinnati defensive line coach

-Lone holdover from Ron Zook's staff, he helped turn Corey Liuget and Whitney Mercilus into NFL first-rounders

Alex Golesh/Tight ends/specialists/recruiting coordinator/Toledo tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator

-One of the first hires by Beckman at Illinois, former Northern Illinois graduate assistant knows the state well

Tim Salem/Running backs & special teams coordinator/Central Florida tight ends and special teams coach

-Former Minnesota QB making his third stop as Big Ten assistant (Purdue, 1991-96; Ohio State, 1997-2000)

Mike Ward/Linebackers/Toledo assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator

-Worked with Beckman on the staff at Bowling Green and was also an assistant at Findlay during Beckman's playing days


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CecilColeman wrote on August 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Well, we know that Justin DuVernois can punt; the question is whether he can catch the snap from center..............