18 days to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini
No. 18: V'Angelo Bentley, cornerback
Why he's important: In a young secondary, Bentley actually has some experience. Albeit, it's not much. But any is better than none. The sophomore from Cleveland played in all 12 games last season. Mostly in a reserve role. He'll do so this year in a starting role with the graduation of several key contributors in the Illini secondary. Bentley recorded 11 tackles, forced one fumble and blocked a field goal during an otherwise forgettable 35-7 home loss to Penn State. He's a bit small (5-10, 180), which could be a cause for concern. If he can rack up an interception or two (an area Illinois struggled mightily in doing so last fall) plus develop solid man-to-man coverage skills, it could benefit Illinois. The pass defense didn't exactly shine in 2012, but it wasn't a sore spot like some other areas, finishing sixth in the Big Ten in average yards per game, but last in pass defense efficiency.
Fast fact: Bentley — who wears the other No. 2 for the Illini besides starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase — was a high school teammate of Illinois wide receiver Justin Hardee at Glenville (Ohio). He picked Illinois ahead of offers from Iowa, Kansas, Pittsburgh and a host of Mid-American Conference schools.
Tomorrow: No. 17