9 days to Camp Rantoul
Counting down the 50 most important Illini.
No. 9: V'Angelo Bentley, CB
Why he’s important: The possibilities of what the Cleveland native can do when he fields a kickoff or punt are endless. A few juke moves here, a spin move there and he might have fooled the defense. The junior was dynamic in the return game last year for the Illini, becoming the first player in program history to return a kickoff and a punt back for a touchdown in the same season. He was the one Illinois player to consistently garner some preseason All-American recognition in the various publications because of his skill on special teams. Named to the Paul Hornug Award watch list earlier this summer — given to the country’s most versatile player — Bentley will look to continue his superb showing when he drops back deep for a kick. But also continued improvement when he lines up at cornerback. Bentley was the only cornerback to come away with an interception last season, securing the win at Purdue with his takeaway. He managed 22 tackles last season, including four for loss.
Fast fact: The military is a strong influence in Bentley’s life. His mother, Angela Pope, served two tours in Afghanistan before retiring from the Air Force after 25 years of service.
Last year’s ranking: No. 18
Tomorrow: No. 8
No. 10: Aaron Bailey