Counting down the 50 most important Illini
No. 25: Taylor Barton, safety
Why he’s important: Barton epitomized the definition of taking advantage of his opportunities. He didn’t play last year, with Tim Beckman using a red-shirt on the Orlando, Fla., native. He made his presence known, however, during the spring game. Barton intercepted two passes during the first half of the game and returned one 45 yards for a touchdown. While Beckman wasn’t too happy about the number of turnovers his squad had in the spring game, the play of Barton surely caught his eye. He’ll likely start the season at free safety. He has the physicality needed for the position, and if he can keep up with his ball-hawking skills, could turn into a solid contributor on defense. Inexperience might be cause for concern when he steps into hostile atmospheres at Nebraska and Penn State, but if he can just imagine it’s a chilly night in Champaign (the setting for his spring game breakout), Barton might end up being a surprise for the defense this year.
Fast fact: The Class of 2012 recruit gave Ron Zook a verbal commitment in early August 2011 ahead of offers from Syracuse and Temple, among others.
Tomorrow: No. 24