Illinois Fighting Ilini Season Preview: Defense

If there’s one thing I know in life, it’s that Illinois college football never ever conforms to your expectations. No one saw their two BcS appearances coming (2001, 2007); and since they followed both seasons up with sub .500 choking, both these bowl appearances are now looked upon as fluky. Whenever Illinois has been predicted to do well (2000, 2002, 2008, 2009) they fell flat on their faces. And their bowl wins (last year, 1999) come in seasons when everyone predicts them to finish near the Big Ten basement.

And I know a lot about this stuff.

My first ever sports memory was their destruction at the hands of UCLA in the 1984 Rose Bowl. I attended my first Illini game in 1991. In addition to covering the team for the school paper when I was in school there, two of my older siblings went to UI. In other words, it’s “my team,” and one of the three teams I cover regularly.

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More Illinois Fighting Illini Named to College Football Award Watch Lists

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We already told you about QB Nathan Scheelhaase being named a candidate for the Maxwell Award, the most outstanding player in college football. But there’s more:

Illinois senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins has been named a preseason candidate for the 2011 Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding wide receiver by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation.

Jenkins led the Illini in receiving in 2010 with 56 catches for 746 yards and seven touchdowns. His seven touchdowns rank eighth on the UI single-season TD receptions list. Jenkins had two 100-yard games during his junior season, including a career-best 137-yard effort against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Nov. 13.

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