Eugene Wilson of Illinois is the player. He recorded 176 tackles (139 solos) with an 11-yard sack and four stops behind the line of scrimmage in 45 games, his eleven interceptions rank sixth on the school's all-time record list while his 60 pass deflections shattered the previous Illini record of 26 by Bobby Jackson (1997-2001), Marlon Primous (1988-91) and Robert Crumpton (1991-94). In fact he could have shattered that record in his junior season alone with the 30 passes defensed he accumulated that season.
Wilson also returned 93 punts (second all-time) for a school career-record 896 yards (9.6 avg) and a pair of touchdowns, surpassing the old mark of 790 yards by Darryl Usher (1985-87).
Eugene "Geno" Wilson II
Ht: 5-10 Wt: 192
40 Times: 4.46/4.49
Bench Press: 15 reps
Bench (high): 305 pounds
Vertical Jump: 38"
Broad Jump: 10' 2"
|"Good cover man effective backed off the line of scrimmage, in zone coverage and could develop into a press corner. Slipped a bit in 2002 but has the skills to be a starter at the next level." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview|
Wilson is a very quick athlete with a good blend of quickness, agility, balance and body control, shows good foot quickness and control in his backpedal and accelerates out of his breaks to close and has the hip rotation, change of direction and feel for routes to mirror receivers on deep passes.
He reads and reacts instinctively working the zone, having the vision to easily spot the secondary target and a very good break off three-step throws something necessary in the AFC West. He gets a solid jump on the ball, showing explosion in his leaps to get to the ball at its highest point, uses his hands effectively in press coverage and is a natural hands catcher with an eye for the interception.
Wilson is very good at cutting down ball carriers working the perimeter and knows how to deliver the hand jolt needed to redirect receivers. He takes proper angles to get to the ball, showing great acceleration off the turn. He Works to maintain his technique and takes proper drop steps when recognizing the routes. He was a three-year starter with a knack for breaking up the pass.
Wilson also is an effective punt returner with patience for his blocks to setup and explosiveness through the holes.
A deeper look inside those 30 pass deflections his junior season is very revealing when you look at the talent he had to face that season:
Lee Evans of Wisconsin, who set the Big Ten Conference record for receiving yards in a season.
Marquise Walker of Michigan, who led the Big Ten in receptions per game and was a first-round NFL draft pick of Tampa Bay.
Josh Reed of Louisiana State, who caught 94 passes for more than 1,700 yards before going to Buffalo in the second round of the NFL draft.
Deion Branch of Louisville, chosen in the second round of the NFL draft by New England. Ron Johnson of Minnesota selected in the fourth round of the draft by Baltimore.
Sam Simmons of Northwestern, a fifth-round draft pick of Miami. Darrell Hill of Northern Illinois, a seventh-round draft choice of Tennessee.
On top of all that, Wilson had daily duels with Fighting Illini teammate Brandon Lloyd, ranked as the No. 5 receiver available in the draft, and quarterback Kurt Kittner, chosen in the fifth round of the draft by Atlanta.
For the record, Wilson said Reed was his toughest assignment. "As soon as he made his move, the ball was there," Wilson said.
Besides the combines, Chargers officials were at his Pro Day in March and came away feeling Wilson could be special as a player. He does take the occasional risk which gets him in trouble, but with a need for a rebuilt secondary the risk is worth the rewards.
Special thanks to Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Preview who contributed to this report.
Denis Savage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the following link: Denis Savage
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