12. Glenn Foster: (last week: not rated) – Remember, Glenn gave up fast food for this. He spent the offseason eating like we’re all encouraged to, lean proteins, whole grains and fruits, gaining 30 pounds of muscle in the process so he could play defensive tackle effectively. Last week he had four tackles and was instrumental in holding the Wisconsin run game in check for most of the night. I couldn’t help but notice each Illinois player was given a box of goodies from KFC following the game. Worry not, Glenn – you earned it.
11. Earnest Thomas: (not rated) – You can’t go wrong with putting any of the four safeties on the list. Steve Hull can play offense. Supo Sanni was awesome as Stringer Bell in The Wire. (By the way, can you imagine Supo at a club in Vegas: Supo: “I play football.” Her: “Hey, wait a minute, you told my friend you were an actor.” Supo: “Yeah, in the offseason.”) Pat Nixon-Youman has a hyphenated last name. Clearly each one has noble qualities, but none surpass the body of work that Thomas provides. Add it all up – dependability, production, potential, consistency, hair style – he wins. He may not be as flashy. He may not be able to run routes, control the seedy streets of Baltimore or offer an intriguing name. He doesn’t have to do those things, though.
10. Graham Pocic: (9) – Anything I type here as a means to compliment Pocic is going to offend the rest of the offensive line. Last week I used Lord of the Flies. This week… Charleston, South Carolina. Pocic is a classic – laid back and great on the weekends. The rest of the Palmetto State is working to get better.
09. Donovonn Young: (2) – Last week our favorite running back to interview had five yards on four carries. So… yikes! It’s not like this offense is the Jackson Five and Young is Tito, just waiting for his shot. The Jackson Five was good. And Tito wasn’t. Call me crazy, but I think DY has the best shot of all the RB/QB/WRs on the roster at playing in the NFL one day. Right now, he’s like a fresh rye chip in a stale bag of chex mix. You know, because I can compare the offense to a bag of chex mix. And call it the anti-Jackson Five. And I think rye chips are the best, the anti-Tito Jacksons.
08. Akeem Spence: (6) – Akeem had one of his best games of the season last week, compiling five tackles and teaming with Foster to hold Montee Ball down for as long as possible. I had a fake conversation with Akeem following the game. Him: “I can’t wait to see where I am in the Dozen this week. The suspense is killing me. I go to expensive lengths to make sure on I’m on there, dispensing as much energy as possible.” Me: “Are you purposely using words with your last name in them?”
07. Terry Hawthorne (11) – Terry brought his hot sauce Saturday, keeping Jared Abbrederis in check until his scary exit in the third quarter. The story about Hawthorne playing the role of key organizer for the players-only meeting prior to the game confirmed to me that he’s an important, respected figure on the unit. What happened after he got hurt backs that up, too. Abbrederis (I believe he was a minor character in the movie Troy) torched the secondary, the defense lost its bounce and the game went from being close to a blowout. Hawthorne’s Hot Sauce – because it’s just too plain without Terry.
06. Ryan Lankford: (5) – Welcome back for another edition of Stats on Stats on Stats. Today’s episode centers on Ryan Lankford. Currently second in the Big Ten with five receiving touchdowns, Lankford leads the team with 25 catches and 362 yards. He has six plays of 20+ yards, three unpaid parking tickets and averages 14.5 yards per catch. I made only one of those up. This has been Stats on Stats on Stats.
05. Mason Monheim: (4) – Season Three of the Wire – A young upstart from the streets named Marlo Stanfield first makes his presence known (Charleston Southern game), then asserts his power to show his a legit contender (Penn State game) and begins to challenge the former kingpin, Avon Barksdale (Jonathan Brown) through continued stellar and brazen moves (Wisconsin game). Barksdale is released from prison near the end of the season (Brown’s return from injury), setting up an epic clash in the Season Four. And that folks, is how you compare dealing drugs to a collegiate sport.
04. Nathan Scheelhaase: (8) – Oh, this dude will draw you in. 178 yards passing? Yeah, that’s what’s up. 84 yards rushing? Yeah, baby. Two touchdowns, one passing and one rushing? This. Is. Awesome. And then… mind boggling, punch in the stomach interception happens. He’s got to stop having the ‘Well, the other shoe just dropped, maybe we should break up’ moments if he wants to take his game to the next level.
03. Michael Buchanan: (7) – The second slab of bread on the Hawthorne-Buchanan leadership sandwich, Mike stepped his game up Saturday after helping Hot Sauce organize that players-only meet. He backed it up, too, finishing with five tackles and two pass breakups. Like my car keys, though, Buchanan has a tendency to disappear for periods at time and for no particular reason. I usually find my keys rather quickly and get in the car and leave. But man, those couple of minutes spent looking for them is annoying as all get out.
02. Ashante Williams: (1) – In all seriousness – this guy has one of the better stories on the team. Sometimes I think we try too hard to paint the picture we want to look at… Player shows promise. Player runs afoul with the law. Player’s career is in jeopardy. Player gets right. Player returns for his last season, plays well and rides off into the sunset having learned from his mistakes, fulfilled said potential and leaves a lasting legacy, on and off the field, for others to follow. I don’t know that this is exactly what’s going on with Williams. But I hope so.
01. Jonathan Brown: (3) – Our resident kingpin, Brown reclaims his top spot after leading the team in tackles last week despite showing obvious signs of a lingering ankle injury. In a fake conversation with Brown after the game, I asked how he dealt with the injury. He said: “Pain don’t hurt.” Me: “Well, nine tackles, that is a lot.” Him: “I had hungry eyes out there.” Oh yeah, he quotes Dirty Dancing all the time. He’s especially fond of the lake scene. For the record, a friend told me all about these moments to make the references. I’ve never even seen Dirty Dancing. Three times. On Blue-ray. Actually, I just realized the ‘pain don’t hurt’ quote is from Road House, single handedly blowing my sappy love movie reference de jour and saving my man card status all at the same time. Excuse the mistake. This whole Scout to Fox Sports Next to Scout ordeal has driven me a bit Swayze, er, crazy lately. I’m going to bed. For 15 hours. Peace.
So that’s the Dirty Dozen, version 7.0. Until next week, the rest are steady chasing Brown (again). Check back each Wednesday for the latest installment. T-shirts, buy two, get one free, sold at the door on your way out.
Oh, and just for fun…
On the cusp: Justin Green - some say he’s the fastest player on the team. Nixon-Youman – top five name of the team. But nobody is catching Fritz Rock on that list though. Nobody. Sanni – has to get healthy.
New to the group: Glenn – all around nice guy, slowly proving Green Day was wrong in the mid-90s. E. Young – returns to the list after a couple weeks off.
Biggest rise: Buchanan and Scheelhaase both leaped four spots. Those of you who purchased stock in either of these two should consider cashing in. It’s hard to move up from here.
Biggest drop: Young – Down seven spots to No. 9. Buy stock in DY if you’re feeling lucky. He’s a volatile investment, but it could pay off.
Top freshman: Mike Svetina – Don’t worry Mike, you’ll get your own HBO series comparison soon enough. Keep working.
Fresh to death shoutout: To the Hawthorne-Buchanan leadership sandwich. Because that meeting was a much needed move. And sandwiches are awesome.