Beat writer Matt Daniels breaks down the starters for Saturday's UI-SIU game (11 a.m., BTN) — and gives us his winner
2 Nathan Scheelhaase 6-3 205 Sr. Kansas City, Mo.
19 Kory Faulkner 6-4 227 Sr. Bloomsdale, Mo.
Edge: Illinois. Faulkner and Scheelhaase have experience (a combined 54 starts). Faulkner is considered more a game manager, while everyone is eager to see how Scheelhaase looks in Bill Cubit’s offensive system. A good day for Scheelhaase will have the fifth-year senior on the bench at least midway through the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.
5 Donovonn Young 6-0 220 Jr. Houston
27 Mika’il McCall 6-0 225 Jr. Dolton
Edge: Illinois. When Young isn’t gashing the Salukis’ defense, look for Josh Ferguson to get the ball. If the game gets lopsided, Dami Ayoola also should get a chance to utilize his skills in front of the home crowd. McCall is in his second year at SIU after transferring from Iowa. If he isn’t carrying the ball, two other transfers, Ken Malcome (Georgia) and Malcolm Agnew (Oregon State) are options.
12 Ryan Lankford 6-0 175 Sr. Jacksonville, Fla.
8 Miles Osei 6-0 200 Sr. Mount Prospect
80 Spencer Harris 6-3 205 Sr. Greenwood, Ark.
3 Josh Sullivan 6-2 193 Soph. Orlando, Fla.
21 LaSteven McKinney 5-9 174 Jr. Broadview
13 John Lantz 6-2 201 Sr. Springfield
Edge: Illinois. Osei should start his first game at Illinois after finally settling on a position. Lankford is a deep threat who has speed to boot, and Harris could become a dependable target if Illinois is faced with any third-down situations. McKinney was second on the team last year in receiving yards with 363 but shouldn’t instill too much fear in the Illinois secondary.
89 Evan Wilson 6-6 250 Sr. Woodstock, Ga.
4 MyCole Pruitt 6-3 250 Jr. St. Louis
Edge: Southern Illinois. Pruitt led the Salukis in receptions (49), receiving yards (577) and receiving touchdowns (four) last year. Wilson caught two balls while dealing with injuries. Injuries have limited Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse in training camp. While we know Faulkner will target Pruitt many times, it’s unclear how well the tight ends will fit in with Cubit’s offense.
68 Simon Cvijanovic 6-5 310 Jr. Cleveland
71 Joe Spencer 6-4 300 Fr. Mason, Ohio
52 Alex Hill 6-3 325 Jr. Slidell, La.
74 Michael Heitz 6-5 305 Jr. Vermont
70 Corey Lewis 6-6 310 Sr. Cresco, Pa.
77 Ethan Wirth 6-6 291 So. Williamston, Mich.
79 Nate Haremza 6-4 308 Sr. Larned, Kan.
65 Tanner Crum 6-3 302 Jr. Mount Carmel
74 Jake Notario 6-4 312 Fr. Monroe, Mich.
68 Victor Craven 6-7 295 Sr. Choctaw, Okla.
Edge: Illinois. Even with one of the more talented linemen in right guard Ted Karras (ankle) not expected to play. Spencer has impressed the Illinois coaching staff with a strong August. Lewis is there to provide a vocal presence, while Heitz and Cvijanovic have started double-digit games in their careers thus far, and Hill should finally get a start at the position he was brought to Illinois to play.
59 Tim Kynard 6-3 270 Sr. Toledo, Ohio
95 Jake Howe 6-3 300 Jr. McHenry
44 Austin Teitsma 6-2 290 Jr. Glen Ellyn
55 Houston Bates 6-3 250 Jr. Covington, La.
97 Blake Miller 6-3 235 Jr. Greenwood, Ind.
51 TJ Beelen 6-2 304 Soph. Zeeland, Mich.
82 Brandon Williams 6-4 241 Soph. DuQuoin
Edge: Illinois. Might not have heard of many of these guys. Kynard is the veteran of the group for Illinois, and defensive line coach Greg Colby has liked what he has seen from the Ohioan from a leadership perspective. Now he’ll get a chance to back that up on the field. Bates has moved into a pass-rushing role after playing linebacker the last two years, and he is a name Beckman has consistently praised leading up to Saturday’s game. Aside from those four, Kenny Nelson, Robbie Bain, Teko Powell and DeJazz Woods could see action as well.
45 Jonathan Brown 6-1 230 Sr. Memphis, Tenn.
43 Mason Monheim 6-1 235 Soph. Orrville, Ohio
34 Mike Svetina 6-2 235 Soph. Brunswick, Ohio
40 Cory Lee 5-11 210 Sr. Prattville, Ark.
9 Bryan Presume 5-11 229 Sr. Kennesaw, Ga.
22 Jordan Poole 6-0 222 Jr. Mt. Juliet, Tenn.
24 Tyler Williamson 6-2 220 Jr. Knoxville, Tenn.
Edge: Illinois. All told, this is Illinois’ best position group, even with Eric Finney, the projected starter at the beginning of training camp, sidelined for the last three weeks with a knee injury. Brown and Monheim are the top two tacklers Illinois has had the last two seasons and have overcome minor injuries suffered during camp. Presume led the Salukis last year in tackles and could rack up double-digit totals, but the overall talent Illinois has at this spot overwhelms the Salukis.
2 V’Angelo Bentley 5-10 190 Soph. Cleveland
27 Eaton Spence 6-0 185 Soph. Belle Glade, Fla.
9 Earnest Thomas 6-2 210 Jr. Orchard Lake, Mich.
3 Taylor Barton 6-1 210 Fr. Orlando, Fla.
5 Terrell Wilson 6-1 187 Sr. Dallas
6 D.J. Cameron 6-1 194 Soph. Florissant, Mo.
29 Boo Rodgers 6-1 185 Jr. Webb City, Mo.
2 Courtney Richmond 5-11 176 Jr. Memphis, Tenn.
Edge: Illinois. Both units are inexperienced. Both don’t have that one playmaker who just jumps out at you and says, “Pay attention to me.” Thomas brings physicality and a much-needed veteran presence for Illinois. Barton had a stellar spring game, picking off two passes from Reilly O’Toole. If he does that against Faulkner, he’ll be a popular man around campus Saturday night. Bentley and Spence will make the first start of their careers, so it’s a good sign they won’t face a pass-happy offense yet.
17 Taylor Zalewski (K, KO) 6-3 220 Soph. Orland Park
18 Justin DuVernois (P) 6-1 190 Jr. Plantation, Fla.
54 Zach Hirth (LS) 6-4 220 Fr. Eureka, Mo.
86 Tim Russell (Holder) 6-6 235 Sr. St. Charles
2 V’Angelo Bentley (PR, KR) 5-10 190 Soph. Cleveland
8 Miles Osei (KR) 6-0 200 Sr. Mount Prospect
96 Thomas Kinney (K) 5-8 174 Jr. McHenry
12 Chris Adams (KO) 6-2 187 Jr. Ballwin, Mo.
56 Thor Hadfield 6-4 208 Jr. Crescent City, Calif.
90 Austin Pucylowski (P, Holder) 6-4 245 Sr. New Berlin, Wis.
21 LaSteven McKinney (PR, KR) 5-9 174 Jr. Broadview
18 Tay Willis (KR) 5-8 165 Jr. Newman, Ga.
Edge: Illinois. Even if the Salukis’ long snapper shares the same first name with a comic book hero. Beckman has emphasized improved special teams play during preseason practices. Rightly so, especially after the struggles the return game has had in the recent past. DuVernois gives Illinois a solid punter when the Illini have to win the field position battle, but Cubit probably would like to see him stay on the sideline for most of Saturday’s game.
Tim Beckman At UI (2-10) Overall (23-26)
Dale Lennon At SIU (35-23) Overall (137-56)
Edge: Illinois. Beckman seems to have let his assistants have more control with their position groups than he did in his first season. He’s letting Cubit and his assistants concern themselves with the offense while he mainly sticks with the defense. The Salukis have knocked off two FBS teams in Indiana (2006) and Northern Illinois (2007) in the last 10 years, but these aren’t like the teams Jerry Kill had down south. Beckman has a nine-game losing streak next to his name, but don’t expect it to reach 10.
Howard Griffith, he of eight rushing TDs against the Salukis in 1990, might get the urge back at the BTN studios to bust out his old No. 29 jersey if Illinois controls the line of scrimmage like it should. The Illini won’t put up eight touchdowns like Griffith had 23 years ago, but fans will leave Memorial Stadium happy with how Cubit’s offense looks after a 38-17 victory.