11. Mason Monheim: (not rated) - Remember the first time you took a sip of beer? Well, that has nothing to do with this, but Monheim makes his first appearance on the list, the youngest person to ever grace the Dirty Dozen. He led the team in tackles Saturday, following up his impressive performance against CSU. He tweeted after the game: Dirty Dozen here I come. OK, so I made that up. But he may have been thinking about it.
10. Hugh Thornton: (8) - The dude is playing through pain, much the same way my mother did every time she took me to the grocery store as a child. My presence was tough on the budget -- I loved me some fruit snacks. Without Thornton, the line is far too young looking to get excited about -- like a bunch of green bananas in the cart. Time to "checkout" of this one. This milk is "spoiling." Ok, I'm done…
09. Donovonn Young: (not rated) - A week after falling out, Young surges back to a respectable ninth place standing. He ran the ball 19 times and caught four passes last week, but fell short in the I-do-so-much-I'm-more-valuable race to…
07. Josh Ferguson: (7) - That's right, it's the I-do-so-much-I'm-more-valuable reining champion. He does so much, he should get his own infomercial. Lacking playmakers on offense? Having trouble moving the ball against those pesky defenders? Introducing the Ferguson. The do-it-all diminutive speedster can run the ball. He returns kickoffs. And he'll even lead your team in receptions. No task is too difficult for the Ferguson. But wait, call now and we'll include a Donovonn Young for free! And we'll throw in a Jon Davis (may or may not ship, we're not even sure, but it's damn fun times talking about it), too! Sold as seen, no refunds if fumbles and sideline fights included.
08. Ryan Lankford: (12) - He's had a hand in four of the 13 offensive touchdowns scored by Illinois, a whopping number for a player that had but one career score coming into the season. Digging deeper, he has 16 of the 41 catches by receivers thus far -- that's almost 40 percent. Of course, complimenting Lankford comes off as bashing the rest. Stats will do that…
06. Graham Pocic: (6) - Something something something, the line hasn't played very well, something something something, Pocic has been hurt, something something something, story of the season, something something something.
05. Ashante Williams (5) - Holding it down inside the top five for a consecutive week, Williams is the only star on the team after the dismissal of Ta'Jarvis Fuller. And keep your 'he may be the only star on the team, period' cracks to yourself. It's still early, yet.
04. Nathan Scheelhaase: (2) - At some point Scheelhaase has to have points subtracted for his lack of actually being on the field. An active participant in only four of 12 quarters this season, he too has one of those dreaded bullied ankles. Is he this important to the offense? Is he really as valuable to the game plan as it seems? Can the team not play well without him leading the charge? Sounds better than, 'Well, we just aren't that good.'
03. Michael Buchanan: (3) - Mercilus, he is not. But he did have five tackles, a sack and a pass breakup last week -- not too shabby. Man, I have an awesome analogy to use here about a subpar sorority with one really, really pretty girl in it that's going to marry a successful dude and have an awesome business career and be happy one day. But it may be too harsh to reveal to you publicly. This Dirty Dozen is a lot easier to write when the team wins… Marrying the dude and having the awesome career is going to the NFL. OK, I've said too much…
02. Akeem Spence: (4) - OK, so that sorority had two awesome girls.
01. Jonathan Brown: (1 - weeks at No. 1: 3 in a row, 4 total) - OK, so that sorority had three awesome girls. This analogy didn't work. Can somebody remind me why this defense is struggling? Thanks, I'll hang up and listen.
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: Jon Davis - Hey, I don't even want a recliner. Earnest Thomas - I still like our favorite player named Earnest, but Steve Hull and Supo Sanni are coming back. This table only has so many place mats, fellas.
New to the group: Monheim - setting records, been somewhere, knows people. Young - He's back.
Biggest drop: Scheelhaase down two to No. 4, Thornton down two to No. 10.
Biggest rise: Lankford up four to No. 8. Not quite the deluxe apartment in the sky, but certainly a piece of the pie.
Top freshman: Gotta go with Justin Hardee here, mainly because I respect the hell out of his family's business -- love those cinnamon raisin biscuits.
Fresh to death shoutout: To Spence, for his candid responses. It was a pleasure talking to you this season. See ya next year.