The Dirty Dozen -- Version 2.0

The Illinois football team power rankings following the Cincinnati win and heading into the Washington game.

12. Martize Barr (last week: not rated) - Interesting name, winding path in the past to get to this point, dreadlocks and production on the football field -- what's not to like about this guy? He can catch the ball, he can run the ball. He leads the team with nine catches and is fourth in total yards. Barr-ing something strange, expect his stats to increase as he becomes more comfortable in the offense and at Illinois. Yeah, you like the last name jokes? I've barr-ely scratched the surface.


11. V'Angelo Bentley (9) - No, Bentley didn't score a special teams touchdown against Cincinnati. But every single time the ball was kicked or punted and you saw the sophomore waiting to catch it, you had that feeling didn't you? You know, the tap-your-buddy-on-the-shoulder-watch-this-watch-this feeling. With Bentley, anything can happen. That's what it's like to watch a playmaker. Something great can't happen every touch. But it might.


10. Miles Osei (not rated) - Respect. It's what those who play sports hope is developed, both inward and outward. Respect can't be faked or forced, only earned. Osei seems to have done that and then some, from his coaches, peers, fans and the media. He's a leader who has changed positions multiple times, some moves made for the better of the team and others to try to get himself on the field. His switch to receiver has worked out for all involved -- he's second on the team with eight catches and his special teams yardage has him sitting with the fifth-most yards gained this season. Respect.


09. Houston Bates (7) - The dude wears work boots to media day on Monday. And he laughs a lot during interviews, because let's face it, sometimes us media types are a little too serious. His production isn't quite where we all thought it would be, but there's no denying his talent and hustle. Come Saturday, he'll be lacing up cleats. But he'll be going to work.


08. Eaton Spence (12) - "The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind." Einstein said that. I'm not sure how it applies here, but Spence has quietly put forth a great season to this point. I say quietly because he's not getting burned and he's not talking about his success. He does it each play and then lines up to do it again the next play. Yeah, he had a pass interference call last weekend, so there has been some noise. But that call was bogus. Carry on, Eaton. You are being noticed, mostly for all the right reasons.


07. Donovonn Young (6) - All the passing and catching and jet-sweeping and whatever explosive thing Cubit can dream up is fun to watch. And yeah, Young hasn't exactly wowed amid all of the firepower and rainbows. But in the fourth quarter last weekend Young went in and wore out the Bearcats defense, extinguishing both hope and the clock with tough yards on run after run. That's a nice card to pull from the middle or bottom of the deck near the end of the game.


06. Simon Cvijanovic (not rated) - Hey, what is this? An offensive linemen in our exclusive club?! The game MVP from last week, Cvijanovic edged out Ted Karras for the offensive lineman spot on the list. I'm just not ready for two of those guys to come in here and hang out with us. We don't have enough punch and pie to accommodate more than one. Next week though…


05. Josh Ferguson (3) - Yeah, it's become cliche to call a versatile athlete a Swiss Army Knife. Forget that. We need something new! Somebody send me a useful tool or thing or something that we can call Ferguson. I'm dead serious. Winner gets a free month added to their sub! I can make that happen. I know people, people!


04. Earnest Thomas (4) - "Courage is grace under pressure." Ernest Hemingway said that, our second influential person quote of the Dirty Dozen. And yeah, that Ernest spells his differently than this Earnest. But still, I thought Ernest did a good job of detailing the way Earnest plays safety.


03. Mason Monheim (5) - Yep. Still perfect. Wait… Maybe he's more perfect. Perfecter.


02. Jonathan Brown (2) - We need to come up with something that happens every game JB hits double digits in tackles. I'll buy a round of whiskey at Esquire here in Champaign every Monday night or something. We can call it the 'Brown Out' or something lame like that. Seriously! Something! This man deserves it. It's the least we can do, drink to his prolific tackling ability.


01. Nathan Scheelhaase (1) - Just one time, say something not politically correct!?! Please. Please. I beg you! It's not gonna happen, is it? He's not going to do it, he's not going to tell anybody anything. You know why? Showing is better than telling. And for Scheelhaase and Illinois, there's still plenty to show. So far, though, so damn good. And it has Scheelhaase firmly atop the Dirty Dozen.

For two weeks now, Scheelhaase has commanded the throne. Heavy is the head who wears the crown!


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