Illini DT Brent Looking For Breakout Year

Defensive line may be the strongest, most experienced group on the Fighting Illini football team this year. It is 3-deep with confident, dominant and athletic personnel. One of the most promising defensive tackles is sophomore Josh Brent.

A graduate of Bloomington Central Catholic, Josh received significant playing time as a true freshman last year and recorded eight tackles including two for loss. But it did not meet his expectations.

"I don't think it went as well as I thought it was going to be. I had an injury early, the first week of camp, and I wasn't able to come back as quickly as I thought. That sort of hindered me throughout the season.

"It got healed, but it was probably about the Indiana game before I was 100% again. That put me back in the depth charts a little bit, and I slowly worked my way up by the time we got to the Rose Bowl. I'm looking to stay healthy and fight for a starting spot."

The SuperPrep All-American was heavily recruited, and with good reason. The 6'-2", 331 pounder runs like a much smaller man and appears destined for stardom, once he learns all the techniques and gains the necessary experience. The confidence he gained last season will help him this year.

"Definitely, that experience is priceless. You can't substitute that for anything. The more snaps you get, the more you learn and the more you're able to apply it."

And while he wasn't satisfied with the outcome, Brent also benefitted from his Rose Bowl experience.

"It was definitely a fun experience. We took it for what it was. We're going to learn from it and definitely try to get back there this year."

Despite his current weight, Josh is in excellent shape, a testament to his hard work during winter conditioning.

"I lost about 3% body fat and toned up a little bit more and built a little bit more upper body muscle, and I leaned out a little in the legs. In the bench press, I maxed out at 405 pounds for 3 reps."

A defensive tackle with Brent's size and strength, coupled with his outstanding quickness, sends chills down the spines of opponents. But Josh is still not assured a starting spot.

"With competition in the defensive line, we're going to put the best players on the field. Everybody is going to have to step their game up if they want to get on the field. So in order to do that, you're going to have to work hard, work on your technique, get in the weight room to get stronger, anything possible so you can get onto that field. With everyone working like that, we're going to have a great d-line."

Residing over the defensive line is coach Tom Sims. Josh respects him greatly.

"He's a great coach. He's gonna bring the best out of you, he's gonna make sure you're the best player, and he's not gonna settle for less."

Sims has established ambitious goals for his charges.

"Last year, we were ranked 12th in the nation among sacks," reminds Brent. "We want to be #1. That's our goal, we want to be dominant. We want to be the most dominant line in the Big Ten and the nation."

The Recreation, Sports and Tourism major was an accomplished shot putter in high school, but his first priority right now is football.

"I was thinking about it. Once we got done with 6:00am's, I was gonna compete. Right now, my decision is pending. I think right now I just want to focus on getting that starting spot and not try to stretch myself too thin trying to do two sports. Maybe in the future."

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