29 days to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini.
No. 29: Eaton Spence, DB
Why he’s important: Spence should start. Just perhaps not at the cornerback spot where he started all 12 games last season. He very well could still end up there, but strong safety is a bit of a concern for Illinois going into the fall. Tim Beckman indicated during spring practices Spence could possibly move there in the fall if Taylor Barton doesn’t lock down the starting strong safety role. He wouldn’t be the biggest strong safety (6 foot, 185 pounds), but the Illini coaches feel he could handle the duties of a safety well. Spence finished with 49 tackles last season and four pass deflections. The Florida native didn’t corral an interception last season, coming close late in the first half against Michigan State, but failing to end up with a takeaway off a deflection that resulted in a 29-yard touchdown pass for the Spartans. Chances are the redshirt junior makes the play this season.
Fast fact: Spence had easily his best game wearing an Illinois uniform at Soldier Field. It’s a game the defense didn’t look back on fondly last season after Washington torched Illinois for 615 yards during a 34-24 win. Spence might have, though. He was one of three Illini to rack up double-digit tackle totals in the game as he made a career-high 14 stops.
Last year’s ranking: No. 33
Tomorrow: No. 28
No. 30: Mike Svetina