17 days to Camp Rantoul

17 days to Camp Rantoul

Counting down the 50 most important Illini

No. 17: Justin DuVernois, punter

Why he's important: The junior is on the preseason Ray Guy award watch list given to the nation's best punter. He's one of 25 in the country. So far. DuVernois was on the field a lot last year. That's because of a lifeless offense for most of the season. He kicked 20 more punts in 2012 (73) compared to the 53 he booted during his freshman season. The number of punts he kicked last year is fifth all-time in Illinois history for a season. Then again, he had inconsistency issues in 2011, causing Ryan Lankford to kick a few rugby-style punts on how bad the Illinois special teams were in Ron Zook's final year. DuVernois averaged 41.9 yards per punt last season, fourth best in the Big Ten. And he landed 19 punts inside the 20-yard line. Illinois fans would most definitely like to see DuVernois not utilized so much this fall. When Tim Beckman has to use him, though, the Florida native has proven he is effective.

Fast fact: The career-long 72-yard punt he booted in the season opener against Western Michigan last year was the longest punt by an Illinois punter since Steve Weatherford had a 70-yarder at Purdue in 2005.

Tomorrow: No. 16