Houston Texans take Illini Whitney Mercilus, DE slips to #26

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He came out of nowhere to win the Ted Hendricks Award as the best Defensive End in all of college football. He rose from obscurity to become an All-American at Illinois. Now Whitney Mercilus is a member of the Houston Texans, joining fellow Big Ten alum J.J. Watt of the Wisconsin Badgers as the men who will fill the pass-rushing void left by the departed 2006 #1 overall draft selection Mario Williams.

Mercilus story is an uplifting one. Watch this moving GIF of the celebration at his house when he got the call.

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Previewing the Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft

 

 

 

 

 

Prior to a Week 15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (only loss of the regular season), the Green Bay Packers looked like they were on an unstoppable path to back-to-back Super Bowls.

That was until the league’s opposing teams figured out how to slow down the NFL’s premier offense just enough to out-shoot them as the eventual World Champion New York Giants did in a divisional playoff bout in front of a stunned crowd at Lambeau Field.

Even though the loss was shocking to some, it’s not hard to figure out where the Packers went wrong last season. Their defense allowed an NFL-record 4,796 passing yards despite being one of the league leaders in blitzes (a.k.a no pass-rush).

And that is why it’s almost a no-brainer that GM Ted Thompson should and will bolster a 3-4 defense which is badly in need of a pick-me-up after a disappointing season.

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2012 NFL Draft – Top Defensive Lineman

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1. Melvin Ingram, South Carolina (6-2, 264): One of the most versatile defensive lineman in the draft, Ingram could play in both the 3-4 as an OLB or speed DE, as well as play the traditional 4-3 defensive end. Ingram has pro-ready hand technique and frequently gets his man off balance.    Prediction: Top-15

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Illini Whitney Mercilus Entering the NFL Draft

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University of Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus announced today that he will forgo his senior season at Illinois to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

 Mercilus who has the best name a defensive line man can have, emerged from total obscurity to have a banner year for the Fighting Illini, tying Simeon Rice’s single-season record and leading the nation with 16 sacks.

He also forced nine fumbles on the season, breaking Illinois and Big Ten records and ranking as the second-most in NCAA history. His 22.5 tackles for loss in 2011 led the Big Ten, rank second in the nation and third in the Illinois record book.

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Illini DE Whitney Mercilus: Best at his Position in the Nation

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University of Illinois junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus was named yesterday to the Associated Press All-America first team. That means he’s truly “everybody’s All-American” and he’s been named to 10 different All-America teams. Nine of which were first-team.

He also took home the Hendricks Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive end.

“There’s a lot of great players out there, and I just happened to beat them out. It’s a blessing,” Mercilus said during halftime of a recent Illini basketball game.

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Illini Defensive End Whitney Mercilus Wins Top National DE Award

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Illinois junior Whitney Mercilus has won the 2011 Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award. Mercilus led the nation in sacks, sacks per game and forced fumbles while ranking sixth nationally in tackles for loss per game. He becomes the first Illini national award winner since Dana Howard (1994) and Kevin Hardy (1995) won the Butkus Award (best linebacker in college football) in back-to-back years.

With a name like Mercilus, pronounced merciless, you have to be a college football player. And a player at the very aggressive attacking position of defensive end too- that helps. He’s a man with a name built for his role like former Illini OL Eric Block, or current Buffalo Bills DB Reggie Corner.

Mercilus beat out finalists Frank Alexander (Oklahoma), Andre Branch (Clemson), Vinny Curry (Marshall), Sam Montgomery (LSU) and Nick Perry, Jr. (USC), garnering over half the vote from current and former college coaches, former players, media members and pro football personnel professionals.

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Hawkeyes Marvin McNutt, Illini Whitney Mercilus on College Football All-Name Team

With a name like Mercilus, pronounced merciless, you have to be a college football player. And a player at the very aggressive attacking position of defensive end too- that helps. Illinois Fighting Illini junior DE Whitney Mercilus is just that; a man with a name built for his role like former Illini OL Eric Block, or current Buffalo Bills DB Reggie Corner.

“I do get a lot of comments, I just walk in public, and people hear my name, and they’re like really? Mercilus that’s your last name? Yeah, it’s a cool last name and you have to play with a name like mine,” Mercilus said.

If there’s one thing the coaches could change with Whitney, it’s getting him to be less timid.

“Yeah, it’s very opposite of my name. Same thing my teammates and former teammates have told me- You’ve got to play more aggressive, stop thinking, go faster, yo look at your last name. It makes no sense for you to be playing like this,” Mercilus said at media day.

Mercilus is joined on college football’s best names in the Big Ten by Iowa Hawkeyes receiver Marvin McNutt.

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What we Learned from Fighting Illini Football Spring Game

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A small select group of things are certain in life- death, taxes, and Fighting Illini football seasons ending up much different than what you expected in the preseason. Last year’s team wasn’t expected to really do much- Yet the finished 7-6 (despite a very difficult schedule) and with a quite decisive bowl victory.

Conversely, in ’08 and ’09, expectations were sky-high heading into September, yet both of those teams flopped (and that’s putting it nicely). So what about this year? Expectations are kind of mixed, “up in the air” you might say as this year’s squad competes to become the first team to reach back-to-back bowl games since 1992.

And that’s fitting, because the 20th anniversary of the 1988-92 teams that made five consecutive bowl games will both be celebrated during the weekend festivities. If Red Grange and Robert Zuppke presided over the “Golden Years,” of Illini college football, then surely the Jeff George/Jason Verduzco/John Mackovic teams were the “silver era” of the program’s history.

That said, let’s begin the journey this fall to finding out whether or not this team will match the ’92 squad’s accomplishment.

By Paul M. Banks

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Fighting Illini Spring Football Game Preview

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Now that Mikel Leshoure left the Illini early for the NFL Draft, (and who can blame him really? He will be one of the first three running backs taken next week) Illinois college football is now headlined by sophomore QB Nathan Scheelhaase. It’s his team. And if he continue to makes strides like he did from the season finale to the Texas Bowl, things will be fine.

The 15 extra practices between the Fresno State loss and the 38-14 domination over Baylor did wonders for Scheelhaase as he completed his first 13 passes, played his best game of the season, and easily could have been co-MVP with Leshoure in that game. Even though Leshoure’s game was really quite special.

Something to really keep an eye on Saturday is Scheelhaase continuing to develop chemistry with wide receivers Ryan Lankford and Darius Millines.

But you won’t get to see the heir apparent to Leshoure at the tailback position. Jason Ford will not go Saturday.

By Paul M. Banks

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Illini Take Down Salukis, Win Game They Should Have

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In the end it was a win that the Illini HAD to have.

Given the events of September 11th, 2010, it was far from a sure thing. [Read more…]