Fast Five: On Defense

A look at five players who should star on defense in 2014.

1. Mason Monheim - The obvious guy to fill Jonathan Brown's role as a tackler and leader, Monheim is a two-year starter still with room to grow. He'll be counted on to lead a unit that must vastly improve in order to improve the win total.

2. V'Angelo Bentley - Bentley is a threat on special teams and a corner with a high ceiling. He had a few bad moments in 2013, but that sometimes happens to corner, especially those starting for the first time.

3. Eaton Spence - He's not as a flashy as Bentley, but Spence is the more solid player of the two. His potential may not be as a high either, but his consistency and experience are a rarity for Illinois on defense.

4. Earnest Thomas - A move back to the Star position should have Thomas playing more freely and on instincts. He's the team's returning leading tackler, but never fully felt comfortable in two seasons spent at safety. Now closer to the line-of-scrimmage, Thomas will be asked to help against the run and won't have as much floating in his mind as he did when he was watching essentially the entire field.

5. Austin Teitsma - What this senior lacks in talent and measurable abilities he more than makes up for with his work ethic and desire. He won't play in the NFL, but nobody cares more or works harder than Teitsma. The defensive line is still a major question mark, with Teitsma representing one player the coaches can count on to do the right things and lead as a consistent contributor.

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