The Dirty Dozen, Version 6.0

CHAMPAIGN - IlliniPlaybook's player power rankings heading into Week Six versus Wisconsin.

12. Supo Sanni: (last week: not rated) - At some point, all these injuries have to be talked about. It's like dumping 10 packs of sugar in a medium coffee -- except it all falls to the bottom. You've got to keep that sweetness stirred. If not, that drink is black. And loses. Sanni coming back (10 tackles in his debut last week) helps. He should only get stronger and better moving forward.

11. Terry Hawthorne: (12) - Say what you want about potential and expectations, Hawthorne still leads the team in pass breakups and is a boost in run defense. He's a damn good tackler. This is like Bizarro Terry Hawthorne. You expect to see speed, interceptions, pick sixes and long punt returns. Instead, so far we've seen tackles, run support and a personal foul for targeting the head.


10. Josh Ferguson (7) - Remember when you went to bed as a kid after losing a tooth… That next morning you might have gotten a couple bucks, which was better than nothing and exciting for the sake of something happening. If you were lucky (and your parents didn't plan accordingly) you might have gotten a five spot (due to the lack of small bills in the household). To me, Ferguson can give you a five spot (or six) on any given play due to his speed. But so far, he's provided solid, two dollar outings.


09. Graham Pocic: (6) - I'm not saying Pocic will be hunted down at the end of the season, but he reminds me of Ralph in Lord of the Flies. He's the leader of a flawed group, a player with obvious talent and the best of intentions. But you get the feeling, like being stranded on an uninhabited island, this offensive line was doomed from the start. Here's to a British vessel (an NFL team) saving Pocic in the spring.


08. Nathan Scheelhaase: (4) - Regardless of the stock, investing always comes with a risk. Scheelhaase, up until this year, was the very definition of dependable -- he hadn't missed a game in his career, dating back to second grade! But he's only played in eight of 20 quarters this season, and all that time away from games and practice has taken it's toll. He's not been sharp -- and it's not his fault. But still, when you invest you want return. When you lose capital, the reason why doesn't matter all that much.


07. Michael Buchanan: (3) - Have you ever stood in line for a roller coaster, say for 30 minutes or so? The anticipation builds. Your palms get sweaty. You feel that pump… And then you get on the ride and, 45 short seconds later, it's over. Sure, it's fun. And probably worth it. But it can be underwhelming, leave you wanting something more than a quick jolt of "Yeah!"


06. Akeem Spence: (2) - And then you go get back in line for another roller coaster… You know, because this one will be even better.


05. Ryan Lankford: (8) - Stats on stats on stats… Lankford already has more receiving yards this season than he produced in his first two seasons combined. Add up the catches for the next two receivers on the stat sheet - Justin Hardee (10) plus Spencer Harris (10)… It's doesn't best Lankford's 23 catches. He has the most catches, receiving yards, touchdowns, average per catch and cartoon book bags on the team. Let's be real -- he's the only figure in the passing game that's showed up this season. Stats on stats on stats…


04. Mason Monheim: (11) - I remember watching the first season of The Wire (the greatest television series of all time. And don't even try to bring that weak sauce about Dallas. Or any other show. You want to pit Sopranos in there, you can at least form an argument. Talking about some shows, I promise I'll embarrass you). Anyway, the first two episodes of The Wire set the stage -- in other words, they're a little slow. You make it past that, and it's brilliant, brilliant storytelling and character development on display. After that first season, though, I was like -- Damn. Where can this go? How far can they take it? This could be… special. And it was. And is. So, yeah, Mason Monheim.


03. Jonathan Brown: (1) - The answer isn't more sugar. Remember, keep it stirred. For the record, the bottom of the cup is the sideline.


02. Donovonn Young: (9) - If DY was a car, he'd sound like 'Yeeeeeeaaaaaaalm' after leaping seven spots this week. This dude is like a 24-hour gas station after midnight -- so useful, so versatile. I need a Sunkist (leads the team in rushing), a bag of chips (second in receptions), a Krispy Kreme glazed (three touchdowns) and, what the hell, I'll grab some Skittles at the counter too (he's accountable: "I'm done talking about it," he said earlier this week. "It's no need to talk about it. We need to go out and do it. I don't want to talk about it anymore. Let's go out and handle business."


01. Ashante Williams: (5) - Leads the team in tackles and the only player to have both an interception and fumble recovery. Also -- remember that 60-yard return he had for a score in the season opener? Things were getting tense up until that happened. So yeah, he may still not be high enough. Wait…


So that's the Dirty Dozen, version 6.0. Until next week, the rest are now chasing Williams. Check back for the next installment. T-shirts, although only in medium and XL, sold at the door on your way out.

Oh, and just for fun…

On the cusp: Jon Davis - I don't even care about recliners. Earnest Thomas - Love this kid, regardless of the late hit. There was no intent to injure. That, of course, is my opinion. At least he was doing something on that play. Hugh Thornton - because you can't go out to eat every meal.

New to the group: Supo Sanni. I wrote a feature about him this week. I so wanted to go cheesy headline with it, like, 'Keep on the Sanni side' or something like that.

Biggest drop: Spence, Buchanan and Scheelhaase all slid five spots. I told you this list is like dad's Tom Selleck autographed Magnum P.I. framed poster -- certainly not something to treat lightly. OK, so my dad doesn't have a framed Magnum P.I. poster. But it'd be a lot cooler if he did.

Biggest rise: Young, seven spots up to No. 2. I could go for some Starburst jelly beans, too.

Top freshman: Mike Svetina. Hey, why not. Playing linebacker in your first year on campus -- how hard can it be?

Fresh to death shootout: To Tommy Davis, for going back out there after muffing a punt and, not only does this dude blow off the chance for a fair catch, but he hauls it in, takes a huge shot, gets up like nothing happened and heads to the sideline with his head up high. Props, young fella.


Illini Inquirer Top Stories