11 days to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini.
No. 11: Teko Powell, DT
Why he’s important: Plays one of the most crucial positions on defense. If a defensive tackle does his job, it makes it harder for offenses to do their job. Like run the ball with any success. Or develop a nice rhythm in the passing game. Powell has the potential to become a consistent force along the line of scrimmage this fall. If he can stay healthy. He missed games against Miami (Ohio) and Nebraska last season because of a foot injury that lingered all year. He had offseason surgery on it, which caused him to miss the first nine practices this spring. Fully healthy, Powell could give fits to opposing offensive linemen with his blend of size and quickness. A starter in the final six games last season, Powell should find himself out there from the get-go this fall and could see an uptick from the 22 tackles he made in 2013. For Illinois’ defense to improve this season, Powell is a key component who must play well throughout 2014.
Fast fact: Fleet of foot doesn’t exactly come to mind with a man standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 305 pounds. But Powell showed a bit of dexterity when he recovered a fumble against Indiana and scampered 7 yards, the longest return off a fumble recovery Illinois had in 2013.
Last year’s ranking: No. 35
Tomorrow: No. 10
No. 12: Matt LaCosse