14 days to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini.
No. 14: Zane Petty, FS
Why he’s important: He made tackles last season. Seemingly when no one else on the defensive side of the ball could. The senior from Corning, Calif., had the most productive season of any junior college transfer Illinois had last fall. He finished fourth on the team in tackles with 75. All the more impressive considering through the first five games, Petty only made 10 tackles in a reserve role. But once he started against Wisconsin, and subsequently made starts in the final six games, he always seemed to find himself around the ball. He averaged 9.3 tackles in the final seven games for Illinois, including three games of double-digit totals, with 15 against Ohio State, 14 against Wisconsin and 10 against Penn State. Petty was hindered once he arrived at Illinois because of offseason shoulder surgery, but the former walk-on at Colorado State turned into a dependable option once fully healthy. Petty didn’t have an interception last season, and an uptick in that category would be a welcome sight for an Illinois defense searching for more playmakers.
Fast fact: Petty is capable of causing takeaways. During his two seasons at American River College — the junior college in Sacramento produced former Illinois quarterback Tony Eason — Petty finished with 10 interceptions.
Last year’s ranking: No. 29
Tomorrow: No. 13
No. 15: Jon Davis