21 days to Camp Rantoul

21 days to Camp Rantoul

Counting down the 50 most important Illini.

No. 21: Taylor Barton, DB

Why he’s important:
Delivering big hits and big interceptions. Those attributes epitomize the best strong safeties in the game. Illinois sure hopes Barton can improve dramatically this fall in both areas. The redshirt sophomore had a stellar spring game in 2013 with two interceptions. Nabbed the first of what many thought would possibly total double-digit picks. Or at least come close. But his interception against Cincinnati was one of only three Illinois had last season. He started the first five games of the season at free safety before watching his playing time dwindle. Barton wound up with 34 tackles, three pass deflections and two pass breakups last season, but he was relegated to a backup role once Zane Petty emerged at the season’s midway point. Barton spent the spring working to replace Earnest Thomas at strong safety with Thomas moving to the STAR position, but Barton’s hold on the position is tenuous.

Fast fact: Initially committed to the Illini when Ron Zook was still in charge, the avid outdoorsman has worn No. 3 since he was given it during his high school career at Lake Highland Prep in Orlando, Fla.

Last year’s ranking: No. 25

Tomorrow: No. 20

Previous rankings
No. 22: Donovonn Young

No. 23: Michael Heitz

No. 24: Alex Hill

No. 25: Jihad Ward

No. 26: Austin Schmidt

No. 27: Mikey Dudek

No. 28: Caleb Day

No. 29: Eaton Spence

No. 30: Mike Svetina

No. 31: Darius Mosely

No. 32: Justin DuVernois

No. 33: DeJazz Woods

No. 34: Taylor Zalewski

No. 35: Jaylen Dunlap

No. 36: Devin Church

No. 37: Tyrin Stone-Davis

No. 38: Paul James

No. 39: Jarrod Clements

No. 40: Joe Spencer

No. 41: Ralph Cooper

No. 42: B.J. Bello

No. 43: Jake Howe

No. 44: Joe Fotu

No. 45: Tyler White

No. 46: Zach Hirth

No. 47: Eric Finney

No. 48: Zeph Grimes

No. 49: Carroll Phillips

No. 50: Clayton Fejedelem

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