V'Angelo Bentley - Cornerback - 5-10, 190, Junior
The Word: Bentley proved to be one of the most explosive players on the Illinois football team in 2013, making noise on special teams and starting at cornerback. His speed and moves led to two touchdowns and provided another threat for a score anytime a ball was kicked in the air. His play at corner could be described as mostly hit, with a few misses scattered in as he figured out his way as a first-year starter.
2013: 22 tackles, four for loss. one interception, one fumble recovery. 189 punt return yards (15.8 average), 663 kick return yards (21.4 average), two total touchdowns.
Expectation: The Illini need Bentley's playmaking on special teams, both for the threat to score and to set up the offense with good field position. He's not going to sneak up on opposing teams anymore, as Bentley' provides something on return units that no other player on the Illini roster can — a track record of success in that particular facet of the game. And with long-time leaders like Miles Osei and Ryan Lankford exiting, Bentley's not going to get by on athleticism alone. He'll be looked to as the voice of the group. He'll have to continue to improve his play as a full-time defender — there's a host of hungry, young corners that will be gunning to take his spot. For that reason, he's somewhat expendable on defense (compared to what he brings on returns), but experienced corners are worth their weight and then some. If he holds on to his starting job, it means he's improved and will be essential for turning around the unit's results.