22 days to Camp Rantoul

22 days to Camp Rantoul

Counting down the 50 most important Illini

No. 22: Mike Svetina, linebacker

Why he’s important: A pleasant surprise a year ago, the St. Ignatius (Ohio) product finished with 40 tackles and started five games, including the final three of the season. As an 18-year-old. Now 19, look for Svetina to see the field plenty in 2013, even if Jonathan Brown, Mason Monheim and Eric Finney should lock up the three starting linebacker spots when Illinois plays its 4-3 defense. Svetina’s 40 tackles last year ranked eighth on the team, but are more impressive considering he had 23 1/2 tackles in the final three games of the season, including a team-high 9 1/2 during the 50-14 loss at Northwestern. He’s solid against the run and needs to improve on his pass protection, but Svetina goes into 2013 on a more confident note considering his surprising freshman season.

Fast fact: Svetina didn’t give a verbal commitment to Illinois until almost the end of the recruiting period for the Class of 2012. The linebacker who had 111 tackles his senior year at St. Ignatius, helping the legendary Wildcats program win the 2011 Division I state title, originally orally committed to Miami (Ohio) before picking Illinois a week before signing day.

Tomorrow: No. 21