Players to Watch in 2013 -- No. 2

The list of Illinois players to watch rolls on with a linebacker looking for redemption in 2013.

I know everybody hates losing. Or at least, I assume everybody hates losing, especially those playing college sports.

But there are different levels of hate, different ways of responding to defeat.

Jonathan Brown, in my opinion, hates losing more than just about anybody associated with the Illinois football team. And he doesn't mind talking about it.

Last season, loss after loss, it was Brown who talked with more edge in his voice, providing candid responses packed full of plenty of emotions and even more truths. Embarrassment. Anger. Disdain. Pride.

Illinois wasn't good. Brown was hurt. Brown was pissed.

He let us know the product on the field wasn't acceptable. He said it time and time again, saying he was taking responsibility for what was going on and apologizing to the fans for something he himself couldn't possibly have changed alone.

I know he's had some immature moments in the past. I think he can be a bit of a coach's headache from time to time, and it's most likely not in his best interest to answer questions with straight-fire truth all the time. But what can be deemed as bad can also feed the good. Jonathan Brown is a the kind of football player with the kind of mentality you need to push people back and not give any cares about doing so. You want, no you need, him on your side.

When he harnesses his emotions properly, he's the best player Illinois has.

I know this because Brown wasn't 100 percent healthy for most of last year, yet he led the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and very well could have turned pro. For the second season in a row, Brown is on the Bednarik preseason watch list, which at this point means nothing, but hey, Illinois needs all the hype it can get.

From the bold side of me clammering to get out… I'll say Brown leads the team in tackles and TFLs in 2013. OK, so that wasn't all that bold. While the linebacker position is easily the deepest on the team, Brown's talent is so big that he needs to play big. The depth elsewhere dictates such.

Here's to candid statements this fall. Let's hope for a more positive tone.

No. 3 - LB Mason Monheim
No. 4 - QB Nathan Scheelhaase
No. 5 - WR Martize Barr
No. 6 - DB Earnest Thomas
No. 7 - LEO Houston Bates
No. 8 - OL trio Hill, Karras, Cvijanovic
No. 9 - WR Ryan Lankford
No. 10 - TE Jon Davis

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