Players to Watch in 2013 - No. 1

The list of Illini players to watch in 2013 concludes with a tailback that oozes pro potential.

Remember that time I told you about Jonathan Brown's noticeable hatred for losing?

Well, add Donovonn Young to that level. The Houston, Texas native was equally vocal about the disappointment and embarrassment of last season's results.

While Brown experienced added frustration due to injury, Young was equally ticked because he couldn't fully be utilized either.

After all, it's hard to effectively employ the running attack when you're losing by double digits.

So the promise of the 6-foot, 220-pound Young coming into the season, after a solid first-year on campus, resulted in 571 yards and three touchdowns. Clearly, those weren't the numbers Young had in mind -- but there wasn't much he could do it about it. Usually by the time the second half rolled around, Young was running pass routes or trying to help block for the quarterback.

He did manage 4.4 yards per carry, which in hindsight, is really respectable given the daylight, or lack thereof, he had on most of his runs.

Now entering his junior campaign in 2013, Young stands to benefit from new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit nearly as much as the quarterbacks will. Cubit's style is most known due to a fast-passing attack, but his approach on the ground should help the powerful and strong Young. Cubit prefers runs that are north-south, not the spread look that the Illini spent much of last season in.

That suits Young, who is built to both run between the tackles (although he does have enough speed to not be classified solely as a bruiser) and carry the football around 20 times a game.

So why he is No. 1? I see Young as a the best professional prospect Illinois has on the offensive side of the ball. He has the size, speed and hands to be a complete back. And now entering his third year on campus, he should be mature enough to handle the responsibility and accountability that comes with being a leader, statistically, vocally and by example.

Kinda of like I said with Brown and a few others near the top of this list, Young is the closest thing to a game-changer Illinois has. That means he has to change games.

If that doesn't happen, the offense won't go. And that can't happen again.

No. 2 - LB Jonathan Brown
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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