The Dirty Dozen -- Version 2.0

CHAMPAIGN - IlliniPlaybook's player power rankings heading into Week Two versus Arizona State.

12. Hugh Thornton: (Last week: 11) - The offensive line didn't have the best game last weekend, especially in trying to establish the run. I blame some of it on cohesion. Coach Luke Butkus didn't think the unit moved off the ball very well, didn't move their feet. Both of these things can improve. And I wonder how the line would play without Thornton, who is not 100 percent healthy. I don't think you want to find out.

11. Ryan Lankford: (Not ranked) - I told you last week -- a wide receiver has to be on the list. It's in the rule book. And you don't even want to get into amending rules for these types of things. Who has time for all that paperwork? Anyway, none of the receivers did much Saturday, outside of Lankford's 64-yard catch and score on the game's opening drive. It was his only catch -- the position accounted for a total of five. I still like Spencer Harris has a solid target and Millines, to me, should be the overall best player at wideout this season when all is said and done. He just has to produce. Until then, Lankford's speed and potential for big plays bumps him into the Dirty Dozen.

10. Josh Ferguson: (7) - I decided after last week's list that I would make it a point to split Ferguson and Donovonn Young. I mean, they play the same position is all. It's not like they're twins that play college basketball -- they don't always have to be lumped together and mentioned as one entity. Still, it was tough to pick. Young had six catches -- an obvious nod to his versatility. But Ferguson had more overall yards -- 43 to 26. I think Young is more of a workhorse back while Ferguson could be a big hitter. They'll still split carries, and we'll adjust accordingly.

09. Earnest Thomas: (Not ranked) - 'Earnest goes to starter.' And shines. What happens when Sanni and Hull return? Nobody wants to see 'Earnest goes to sideline.' He's just getting cranked. So are we.

08. Terry Hawthorne: (6) - Hawthorne had one of those solid yet quiet -- hey, wait a minute, he had five tackles (one for loss) and a pass breakup -- kind of games. Hawthorne doesn't have to intercept passes to impact games -- he's a complete corner. With completely awesome dreadlocks.

07. Ashante Williams: (9) - I told you I was sleeping on Williams. I told you! I knew I was ranking him too low. I knew it, I said it and I did it anyway. He sure showed me. He led the team with tackles and sealed the game with a pick-six in the fourth quarter. Hell, I may still have him too low. I do, don't I?

06. Jon Davis: (8) - Two things… I didn't see Davis leading the team in rushing in Week One. He did. I thought he'd catch at least three or four passes. He didn't. But I guess how he gets the ball doesn't really matter, as long as he can make plays in some form or fashion. I don't know how the coaches make these decisions anyway. My indecisiveness has led to another week without a recliner.

05. Graham Pocic: (2) - Not a flashy pick, but Butkus can mix and match this line solely because of Pocic. He's like the Philip Seymour Hoffman of the list in that he might not initially come to mind when talking stars on this team, but he more than holds up in any argument. Hoffman killed in Boogie Nights, Almost Famous and Capote, just to name a few. Extremely versatile actor that somehow compares to Graham Pocic. Right? OK, let's move along.

04. Akeem Spence: (4) - Still attest that Spence may be the most important player on this defense. If not for the lack of experienced depth at linebacker (helping the case for Brown) and the obvious NFL talent next to him (boosting Buchanan), he would be hands down. Spence is like an Army tank with a good personality. Fun to talk to -- killer against ground initiatives.

03. Nathan Scheelhaase: (3) - How important is Nathan Scheelhaase? Do you want to find out? Do you think Illinois can win this weekend without him? Did that answer all of your questions?

02. Jonathan Brown: (1) - How is this dude only a junior… (Um, you know Spence is a junior, too?) Wait… Spence and Brown are juniors? Wow. Brown shouldn't feel bad about losing the top spot -- he's clearly a beast and played very well Saturday. Nothing wrong with a friendly competition. I expect Brown and Buchanan to battle it out all year. You know, because this is what really matters.

01. Michael Buchanan: (5) - Sometimes we can get too cute. Sometimes you want to bypass the obvious choice to try to show you know something, to prove you're not afraid to get out on on a limb. I think I'll scoot back to the trunk of the defensive tree this week. The NFL-player-in-the-making trunk. And real quick -- yes Buchanan had a sack, an interception, two tackles for loss, two QB hurries and a pass breakup. All of that is the salsa. But he seemingly impacts every play by occupying more than one blocker and hurrying the quarterback just being on the field. He's too good, too important and too Buchanan not to top the list.

So that's the Dirty Dozen, version 2.0. Until next week, the rest are chasing Buchanan. Check back each Wednesday for the next installment. Tee-shirts sold at the door on your way out.

Oh, and just for fun…

Dropped out this week: Justin Green (12 - let me explain, and you won't like this. I know he had six tackles. He played well. He's being penalized because of that stupid rule that a receiver be on the list. OK, OK, I'll fill out the paperwork and get the rule changed. You hear that Lankford? You're on the clock.), Spencer Harris (10), Donovonn Young (co-7).

New to the group: Lankford, Thomas

Biggest Drop: Ferguson: three spots to tenth.

Biggest Rise: Buchanan: five spots to blue-ribbon.

On the cusp: Green, Harris, Millines (I'm a sucker for potential), Houston Bates (five tackles in the opener, big U.S. city first name), Tim Kynard (the "other" guy on the d-line, four tackles in the opener), Foster (still big, still an all-around nice guy).

Top freshman: Linebacker Mason Monheim. Played significant snaps and for a whole series. Will continue to be counted on for depth at linebacker. Honorable mention: V'Angelo Bentley, who was on the field in the fourth quarter, in a game that could have easily gone all Kenny Loggins Danger Zone with a few big plays breaking the other way. He held his own, too, defending one deep route in particular fairly well.

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