Dirty Dozen -- Version 4.0

CHAMPAIGN - IlliniPlaybook's player power rankings heading into Week Four versus Louisiana Tech.

12. Ryan Lankford (Last week: not rated) - Well, if it isn't a receiver showing his face back in here after a week on the outside. Here's to Lankford, who can play the X, Z … Is there a Y in this offense? Probably. He can play that, if there is one, too. Lankford is too fast with the ball in his hands to not be on this list, plus he's producing. Leads the team with 192 yards and three touchdowns. This just in, I'm told there actually isn't a Y at Illinois. It's an H… for please don't get Hurt.

11. Terry Hawthorne (10) - I know some of you might eat chicken wings plain, with no hot sauce (or whatever else you can throw on). I don't know why, but I suppose there's some merit to that, nutritional specs or something. It can't be near as tasty, but whatever. I kinda get the feeling Hawthorne is not healthy. And there's still merit to a not-quite-100 percent Terry Hawthorne. But I want to see what's up when it's full go, hot sauce to the max.

10. Earnest Thomas (8) - Guess who has more tackles than M. Buchanan and A. Spence combined? Here's a hint - he also leads the team with two forced fumbles? Yeah, I'm talking about Earnest Thomas. What I love about Thomas is the way he plays with conviction. OK, so that's literally what 'earnest' means. As a noun, it's defined as a sign of promise or what is to come. For only a sophomore, I'd say that's about right.

09. Jon Davis (11) - OK, so I just tried to look up 'jon' in the dictionary. Definitely not going to be as witty with this one. But you'll settle for a touchdown, right? Davis found the end zone for the first time last week. An earnest performance, perhaps? (Nodding). And yeah -- it would have been perfect if I had gotten my recliner last week. But I didn't. Opportunity missed.

08. Hugh Thornton (9) - Slides up a notch this week because his role could be even more important if Pocic can't go. Thornton reminds me of a peanut butter sandwich. Solid, solid choice. Great, great foundation to build a packed lunch, er blocking scheme, around.

07. Josh Ferguson (6) - As we tally the points for the Dirty Dozen, I always argue durability gets no respect compared to potential, which everyone is all about (all of you optimists, at least). Due to his speed, Ferguson is clearly a potential touchdown maker on any given snap. But now that he's missed a game with a concussion, all we're saying is we're antsy. Who exactly "we" are, is up for debate.

06. Graham Pocic (5) - It's hard to get a read on the o-line. Inconsistent is the first word that comes to mind. But is that due to the lack of experience across the board or because injuries have hamstrung cohesion? Either way, a question mark next to Pocic's name isn't helping the situation.

05. Ashante Williams (7) - If he was an early 90s wrestler, he'd be Mr. Perfect, Curt Henig (RIP). Not because of similar styles, but put simply -- the name fits. Williams has rebounded from off-the-field issues (good story). He's tied for the team lead with 20 tackles (good player). He has his own position, labeled the Star, and doesn't really have a backup (good something or another).

04. Akeem Spence (4) - As sure as the sun rises and Jay Cutler's struggles to be a decent human, Akeem Spence will continue to be ranked No. 4.

03. Michael Buchanan (3) - These spread offenses and quick passing attacks are really thwarting Buchanan's Heisman bid. This is terrible - I really want to see another defensive player win one in my lifetime.

02. Nathan Scheelhaase (2) - This injury sitch is turning into something akin to an online dating nightmare. Let's say you find a perfect fit, ease into things with emails and finally set up a date to meet up in person. But for some reason or another, plans have to be rescheduled. Again. And again. At this point, you're just hoping the picture listed with the account is up to date. If you followed all of those references, your cookie is in the mail. Delta, in-flight cookie, at that. Underrated little treats, if you ask me.

01. Jonathan Brown (Number of weeks at No. 1: 2 consecutive, 3 total) - It's easy to take a great player for granted in these listed some times, because they can make it look so easy. Yeah, sure Jonathan Brown, but what about… Save it. Brown is the king of our castle. Everyone else is treading water in the moat.

So that's the Dirty Dozen, version 4.0. Until next week the rest are still chasing Brown. Check back Wednesday for the next installment. T-shirts sold at the door on your way out.

Oh, and just for fun…

On the cusp: Donovonn Young. Dropped out this week. Has what it takes, just needs to be more consistent. Mason Monheim. Plays like he's been somewhere and he knows somebody.

New to the group: Lankford. Welcome back, Mr. Offensive MVP.

Biggest drop: Thomas, down two spots to No. 10. Not of his own doing, I'm simply out of Jim Varney jokes.

Biggest rise: Williams, up two spots to No. 5. Is he still too low? You know, because if he is… Ah, forget it.

Top freshman: Monheim, no doubts after his strong performance last weekend. But since he's on the cusp, that means he's almost in the Top 12. And if he's in the Top 12, this coveted spot will open up. You hear me Dami Ayoola, Justin Hardee and V'Angelo Bentley? This could be you next week.

Fresh to death shout out: To Lankford, for his Batman book bag. My sources tell me he has a whole closest full of cartoon book bags. Stay tuned. To Ayoola, for his second and third effort on fourth down runs. To Ralph Cooper, for taking his punishment like a man and coming back strong. To Justin Green, for the birth of his son.

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