31 days to Camp Rantoul

31 days to Camp Rantoul

Counting down the 50 most important Illini

No. 31: Eric Finney, STAR

Why he’s important: Junior college players transferring to programs like Illinois want to play. Right away. Looks like Finney will get the chance to do so in 2013. The likely starting STAR (a hybrid linebacker/defensive back) will enter his first season at Illinois after sitting out the 2012 season at College of the Canyons (Calif.) with an injury. All is well now in regards to Finney’s health. He showed he was capable of making plays during the spring game, where in his first action at Memorial Stadium, he racked up six tackles, second-most on the Orange squad. Won’t have to be spectacular among the linebackers with Jonathan Brown and Mason Monheim filling roles, but will have to be steady, especially in pass coverage. Illinois needs all the help it can get in the secondary, so Finney’s ability to drop back and contribute when the ball is in the air is more important than when opponents line up and run the ball.

Fast fact: He didn’t receive any Division I offers coming out of Centennial (Calif.) High School, so he went the JUCO route. Northern Illinois and Florida Atlantic were other FBS programs in touch with Finney before he settled on Illinois in early December.

Tomorrow: No. 30

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