Michael Buchanan is a slender defensive end from Homewood-Flossmoor. It was assumed he would need time to bulk up for the rigors of Big 10 football, but he has impressed Illinois coaches with his tenacity and quickness.
He has seen action in both Illini games so far.
"It's really exciting. I have a great opportunity. I'm probably in the 20's (snaps). That's pretty good for a freshman."
Buchanan wasn't even intimidated walking into the Edward Jones Dome to play Missouri in his first college game.
"It was different. I've never been in a game where there was that many people. It was a really great experience. I was really excited to get on the field and get the snaps I could."
The precocious freshman credits his coaches for his ability to see the field so early in his career.
"The game's really a lot faster than high school of course. I think our coaches did a real good job of preparing me, and I think I've been doing pretty well."
He denies college ball has been a major adjustment for him.
"Not for me. A lot of guys say it is, but my coaches have been doing a really good job of preparing me to play. It's been an easy adjustment."
The 6'-5", 220 pounder is not intimidated at his present weight, but he understands why bulking up could be an asset for him.
"My coaches feel like it is (a drawback). They want me to put on some weight so I can play the run a little tougher. Right now, I'm mostly in on passing down situations. I'm just gonna do my job, and when the time comes I'll be able to play."
Buchanan agrees when his style is described as aggressive, determined, and relentless.
"Yeah, that's pretty much my mentality. With my weight and not being as strong as other guys, I try not to let that hold me back. I pretty much try to do my job and try to help my team."
What besides weight gain does he want to improve about his game?
"Just doing my assignments, learning to get guys off me, and playing the run."
A gleam sparkled in Buchanan's eyes when asked about competing against 300 pounders who try to hold him up at the line of scrimmage.
"I'm pretty quick, so not all the time. It's a problem when I get between the tackles, but outside I'm used to it. Most tackles can't keep up with me on the outside. My mentality is, nobody can block me."
Buchanan has also been involved in special teams.
"I play kickoff and return, a few special teams here and there."
There are still numerous differences between high school and college, things for which newcomers must become acclimated. The bye week is one of those.
"The older guys probably need it more than we do. But it's a real good time to get the legs back fresh, work on some things and get ready for a big game."
Buchanan is pleased to be seeing action. The fact he is one of only four freshmen to play for Illinois so far this year has not been lost on him.
"I think this is a really good opportunity. I'm coached up and I'm ready."
A major field of study will be declared at a later date.
"I'm undecided right now. I may be interested in Sports Medicine."