Michael Buchanan has played a lot of football in his two years at Illinois. Gaining valuable experience as a freshman, he became the starting Bandit as a sophomore. But through those two years, he was uncomfortable around media. Fortunately, those days are behind him.
"Yeah, I'm more relaxed with you guys. It takes awhile. I think I'm used to it."
The consequence of his comfort level is a willingness to share more of his thoughts on his play and his team. For instance, a year as a Bandit has proven beneficial.
"It feels a lot better. I'm comfortable at the position. I'm starting to understand the position a lot more. I'm feeling pretty good about it."
The 6'-5", 235 pounder is slowly but surely gaining weight and strength.
"I've gained about five more pounds, so I feel a lot stronger. Coach Lou (Hernandez) is getting us right.
"I'm a high metabolism guy, so it's hard for me to put on weight. But the weight I'm putting on is really good weight. I think I'll keep gaining good weight before the season starts."
Buchanan is considered a starter, but there is depth at the position. Justin Staples has experience and is battling for playing time.
"Justin's my man. I know whenever I come out, I know he's a guy that could be a starter anywhere. That's a guy coming in who knows what he's doing. He started some games last year, so he's a veteran too."
After a year working defensive coordinator Vic Koenning's schemes, Buchanan believes the Illini defense is improved.
"I think a lot of guys are really starting to buy in and understand what they have to do a lot better. I feel like our defense has a lot of potential. Nobody on the defense has scratched the surface on what we can do. We just have to jell together and play together. If we do that, I feel like we can do anything."
The Homewood-Flossmoor product is a hard worker who continues to develop his skills. He was asked what aspect of his play needs improvement.
"My whole game. No part of my game is complete. Pass rush, playing the run, I want to put on some weight. Just everything. The mental part of the game, being a leader every day. Everything still needs work.
"Personally, I don't think we should ever be satisfied. Everyday I want to come out here and get better and better. I feel like I'm making progress every day."
The Illini will benefit from Buchanan's maturity level. But he still thinks it strange to be called a veteran on the team.
"Yeah, it went fast. I don't know why, but they keep calling me a vet. So I guess I'm used to it."
Buchanan enjoyed the Texas Bowl, but it made him hungry for more.
"It was great. It was great to be in a bowl game, but the Texas Bowl was on a completely other level. We want to reach a higher level."
Buchanan hopes to develop a Communications major beginning this fall. Now that he has gained confidence and maturity, it is easy to understand why he would pick that field.