Versatile Asamoah Star of Offensive Line

The Illini football team boasts an experienced offensive line, with seniors Xavier Fulton and Ryan McDonald both candidates for post-season honors. But as good as they are, they must share accolades with junior Jon Asamoah. The right guard may just be the best of them all.

The 6'-5", 309 pounder has lettered each of the last two years and was a fixture on the line in 2007. He combines strength, quickness, explosiveness, intelligence and savvy, and he's already being evaluated by the pro scouts. He is so talented, he is also capable of moving to tackle should the need arise.

"We have a pretty good idea of what we have from the spring and last year," says Asamoah. "I like where I'm at, but if something happens on the outside, I'll be out there."

Asamoah benefitted from playing between McDonald and the graduated Akim Millington last year. Now he is the upperclassman assisting less experienced Ryan Palmer, who plays adjacent to him at right tackle.

"It's the next step. Last year I was the young guy. This year, I need to step up and kind of be a leader and work with the line.

"I kind of feel comfortable with Ryan. He came in last year, and we're on the same page and know the language out there. So I have full confidence in what we're doing."

The product of Rich East High School was not highly recruited. Originally committed to Northern Illinois, he accepted a late offer to Illinois and now enjoys proving the recruiting gurus wrong.

"It's special to me. When we play teams, I look around and see guys and then see where I'm at, it just makes me feel good with where I'm at. It makes me realize what I have inside to keep pushing."

Offensive linemen go unnoticed when they do their jobs correctly. The key to their success, and happiness as athletes, is performing as one rather than individuals. They must practice diligently and endure numerous challenges to mold themselves into a functional unit.

"We've got to work together. If one guy breaks down, we all look bad. We just need to continue to become more comfortable with each other. We've all been around each other for awhile now, and we're not afraid to communicate. And we're alot more athletic and stronger than we've ever been."

Jon sees fall camp as essential in preparing linemen for the 12 game season.

"Without camp, the season would be harder. We go through struggles here that are sometimes harder than the season, so it prepares us for everything that's to come."

One giant struggle is the daily competition offensive linemen have with a powerful Illini defense. There is no better way to improve than to go against the best.

"Our defense is gonna be good. It can only make us better when we're out there playing against them. They're the same as the hardest guys I played last year.

"They're just as athletic. Sometimes, practice is harder than the games. These guys are good, and it's a challenge out there every day. You've gotta come right every day."

All weight training, conditioning and daily practice reps are worth it once the season begins. Asamoah can't wait for the Missouri game. He says the Illini want to make up for last season's loss.

"Yeah, we do. We know how good they are, what we have to expect and what's gonna come. I'm just excited."

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