First thought that comes to mind: Talented
Second thought that comes to mind: Deep
Third thought that comes to mind: Platform
Yeah, this is a platform position for the rest of the team to build around, especially considering what else is going on with the defense.
Talent, check. Experienced depth, double check. More, lesser experienced but talented depth, triple check.
Brown is one of the two or three best overall players on the team who, when healthy, is thought to be one of the better linebackers in the Big Ten (or the country if things go the way I think they could). He should be in line for a huge senior season, as I get the feeling he realizes how important it is for him to lead both vocally and by example.
Monheim is only going to be better. He's bigger and has now had a full offseason to learn and prepare.
That's as good a starting duo as you could ask for.
What's behind the starters is exciting, too. Svetina, who split time at the Star in fall camp, is plenty capable of playing a bigger role. He started as a freshman in 2012 and, like Monheim, is only going to be better this year.
All of this was kind of expected coming into camp. Brown, Monheim and Svetina were known commodities. I'll throw T.J. Neal in that category too because he showed flashes of good things to come while redshirting last year and during spring drills.
The surprise of the camp came when Zeph Grimes performed so well when Brown suffered a concussion. The sophomore is undersized for sure, but he's a high intensity, tough-nosed, infectious attitude type. You can never have enough of those guys in the program.
Throw in that Henry Dickinson is coming along well after suffering a broken leg last year and it's plain to see… The linebacker spot is an embarrassment of riches compared to virtually every other position on the team (aside from maybe tight end and quarterback).
Here comes the boom: Brown
Get excited about a leap from last year: Monheim
Like a third starter: Svetina
Stay hungry, young fella: Grimes and Neal
Buy this stock now. Thank me in a few years: Dickinson
Final thought: With the defensive line and secondary both question marks, much responsibility will be given to the linebackers. And it's true, to whom much is given, much is tested. If Brown and Monheim stay together all season, I think elite play will happen. There is, though, a safety net of sorts given the depth. That's a luxury not many position coaches have at Illinois.