Counting down the 50 most important Illini.
No. 30: Mike Svetina, LB
Why he’s important: Has 16 career starts next to his name already in his career, but not ensured of one heading into fall camp. The junior linebacker was exposed at times last season playing the STAR position because of a knee injury to Eric Finney, which required him to play more in space and deal with pass coverage. The Illinois coaches elected to move back to an inside position this past spring, where they feel he’s better suited. Svetina made 57 tackles last season, good for fifth on the team and an improvement from the 40 he compiled in 2012. If Illinois had won at Penn State, who knows if a missed bowl game would have materialized. Svetina made a key play in the eventual 24-17 overtime loss against the Nittany Lions, forcing the only fumble of his career so far. Houston Bates recovered the loose ball at Illinois’ own 2-yard line with Illinois leading 17-14 and less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter. Illinois needs more of those types of plays from Svetina this season whether he starts or backs up T.J. Neal and Mason Monheim.
Fast fact: Currently engaging with close friend and fellow linebacker Monheim on who can sport the longer hair. The two Ohioans made the bet after their freshman season and neither has yielded yet.
Last year’s ranking: No. 22
Tomorrow: No. 29
No. 31: Darius Mosely