Linebacker Mason Monheim - the Cover Boy for this Sunday's News-Gazette - and his No. 43 jersey should find itself among the starters when Illinois opens against Southern Illinois on Aug. 31. Beat writer MATT DANIELS offers up his take on who else will line up as a starter against the Salukis.
QB Nathan Scheelhaase - Senior only needs nine starts this year to surpass Juice Williams as career leader at this position
RB Donovonn Young - If you see the Texan going north-south more often than east-west, Bill Cubit will have a smile on his face
WR Ryan Lankford - Won’t overwhelm a defensive back with size, but could turn into Scheelhaase’s favorite target
WR Spencer Harris - Might have to look twice at the former clean-shaven senior. Arkansas native sporting long hair and a bushy beard now.
WR Miles Osei - Former quarterback is lacking on catches in his career, but not in leadership ability
TE Jon Davis - If his knee holds up. If it doesn’t, line up Evan Wilson and throw him the ball. He’s 6-6, 250. Easy to spot.
LT Simon Cvijanovic - In charge of protecting Scheelhaase’s blind spot, Ohioan has bulked up since last year.
LG Michael Heitz - The most experienced linemen in terms of games played, junior has had a solid training camp.
C Alex Hill - Ron Zook brought the Louisiana native to Illinois so he could snap the ball. He’ll get his chance in the opener.
RG Joe Spencer - Redshirt last year won’t have to wait long to start his first college game with Ted Karras likely sidelined.
RT Corey Lewis - Should start. The real key is to see how he holds up. Five knee surgeries are never good statistics when it comes to offensive linemen.
DE Tim Kynard -Has had to become the leader of an otherwise inexperienced unit. So far, he has filled the role just how Tim Beckman wants him to.
DT Jake Howe -Unproven. And he knows it. Missed most of last season with a broken hand, so he’s a bit of an unknown going into the fall.
DT Austin Teitsma -Probably the happiest guy on the team, Teitsma would make his teammates even happier with a breakout season.
DE Houston Bates -Technically, he’s the LEO. Getting to the quarterback is the former linebacker’s main responsibility.
LB Jonathan Brown -Poised to bounce back from a frustrating 2012. Keeping him on the field is a must for a defense looking for playmakers.
LB Mason Monheim -Can he avoid the sophomore slump? Can he become the future pitchman for Smuckers if he continues to progress? Yes to both questions.
LB Mike Svetina -Again, another player whose role isn’t necessarily at linebacker, but the sophomore should start at the STAR position with Eric Finney’s knee injury.
CB V’Angelo Bentley -Played in a reserve role as a true freshman last year. Now he’ll start in a revamped secondary.
CB Eaton Spence -Another new name to a new-look defensive backfield. Spence has a year on Bentley after redshirting in 2011, but only has two career starts to his name.
FS Taylor Barton -Looks like he could fit in well on “Duck Dynasty.” More Illinois fans will remember him, though, if he carries over his superb spring game to the fall.
SS Earnest Thomas - If any of his fellow DBs need answers to a question, he’s the guy they turn to. Confident Michigan native is expecting big production from his unit this fall.
K Taylor Zalewski - On scholarship for the first time in his college career, Orland Park native clearly has had the best camp when it comes to field goals and kickoffs.
P Justin DuVernois - Produces spirals on a consistent basis with his foot the way Wes Lunt does throwing the ball. Florida native has proven he’s no longer a question mark.
KR Josh Ferguson - Shifty. Elusive. Quick. All traits coaches want to see out of a player in this position.
PR V’Angelo Bentley - Is this finally the guy to turn around Illinois’ woeful numbers at this position? Has the speed to do so, but no one’s quite sure what to expect out of him in the return game.