As we head into Spring Practice season, we here at BSD thought we would provide you, the members of our community, with an in depth of those young men whom we will see play in the B1G for the next four years. In this series, we will analyze the good, bad and ugly of the other schools in the B1G and hope it provides insight into the other schools with whom Penn State competes.
2011 Re-Cap: Despite their second consecutive 7-6 season and a victory over UCLA in something called the Fight Hunger Bowl, Illinois decided to replace Ron Zook with former Toledo Head Coach, Tim Beckman. Beckman, formerly an assistant for both Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, may be the Illini’s best and most important recruit for the 2012 year. That said, here’s a look at the players who will call Champaign home for the next few years.
Top Three: Taylor Barton-DB-6’1’’, 200 lbs., Orlando, FL. Barton was a two-way player in high school, playing both corner and wide receiver. It is assumed, at this point, that Barton will play exclusively in the defensive backfield. Barton is a hitter. He plays the run exceptionally well for a corner and is a bit of a ball hawk in coverage. With a 4.4 40 time, he has the speed to cover most receivers, although probably not the elite receivers. Given his size and acumen as a hitter, Barton has the skills to be a very good free safety and, if he’s converted to safety, has a chance to play on Sundays in a few years.
Tajarvis Fuller-LB/S-6’1", 185 lbs., Ft. Meyers, FL. Fuller played linebacker in high school, but is slated to play safety in college. He, like Barton, is big hitter. Fuller often makes plays in the offensive backfield and will probably be very effective as a strong safety, especially in blitz packages. Fuller also appears to be a very intelligent player, who is rarely out of position or caught over-pursuing. However, Fuller does not have elite speed, thus for Fuller to be effective at this level, he will need to devote a lot of time in the film room and with the playbook. Based on his performance in high school, he should have no problem with this.
Teko Powell-DT-6’2", 285 lbs., Miami, FL. The biggest thing about Powell is his speed. He ran a 4.9 40 and has very quick feet. He has the speed to make life difficult for quarterbacks and running backs throughout the B1G. He also has tremendous leg drive, which gives him the ability to bull rush offensive linemen. However, Powell’s technique is not very developed and he lacks the sophisticated moves of big time pass rushers. Powell also needs to make better use of his hands and, at 285 lbs., would be a liability against power running games, like those of Iowa, Wisconsin, etc. That said, Powell should still be able to make a difference as an inside pass rusher and, possibly, as a defensive end.
Illinois spent 10 of its 19 scholarships on defensive players and that is where the large balance of their talent lies within the class of 2012. Illinois also signed some offensive linemen who may end up as something, but their skill position recruits are average at best. The real strength of this class, for the Illini is in the defensive backfield, where they have a couple of potential stars. Overall grade of Illinois class of 2012: C+.