Mostly agree with your rankings; with the optimism bias from being a cardinals fan personally, I'd argue you could make a 1 star increase at each position, but their current rankings are also fair. I very much disagree with the 1 star ranking at special teams however, as we have a pro bowl gunner in Justin Bethel being joined by some high upside athletes in the kick coverage team and kick return game. Probably the best coverage unit in the game, which coupled with a punter who is below average (don't think he's as bad as stats show- his hangtime is rediculous, and it seems the staff went with him for this reason. I'd choose a distance leg with our coverage team, butI digress). In short, I'd say 3 stars is fair. A perfectly average special teams unit, whose only limitation really seems to be Drew Butler's distance and the uncertainty of a new long snapper (but both seem pretty reliable this far)
These are the school's prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft by status * - denotes 2014 prospect ** - denotes 2015 prospect.
This page was last updated April 13, 2013. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois
Height: 6-0. Weight: 195. 40 Time: 4.44. Projected Round (2013): 3-4. 3/30/13: Hawthorne was one of the best players on the field at the East-West Shrine. He did very well in man coverage and was physical. Hawthorne also showed more ball skills than previously thought. The strong week should help him on draft day.
Hawthorne followed that up with a good Combine and ran faster than expected. He is a sleeper corner who could turn into a steal.
Aside from a rough game against Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton, Hawthorne was playing well in 2012 until he suffered a concussion against Wisconsin. He was knocked unconscious and was taken off the field in an ambulance. Hawthorne was having a tremendous outing against Badgers cornerback Jared Abbrederis, a speedy receiver who is a tough coverage matchup.
Hawthorne returned to action after missing one game. He had 44 tackles and six passes broken up this season. Hawthorne also averaged 22 yards per kick return.
9/1/12: Hawthorne played better as he progressed through his junior season last year. The first-year starter totaled 60 tackles, eight pass breakups and three interceptions. In the season finale against UCLA, he had a big game with eight tackles, 1.5 for a loss, one pass breakup and an interception returned 39 yards for a touchdown.
Hawthorne was a backup the previous in 2010 and 2009 with two total interceptions. He has a nice physical skill set to work with and could push his stock up with a strong senior season. Illinois is said to be experimenting with Hawthorne at wide receiver along with returning punts and kicks.
Akeem Spence*, DT, Illinois
Height: 6-1. Weight: 305. Arm: 33.48. 40 Time: 5.15. Projected Round (2013): 3-5. 4/6/13: Spence was hit and miss in his final season. He didn't play well against Wisconsin, but did well versus Penn State. Spence has some speed and explosiveness, but needs to improve his ability to defend the run. He needs more strength to anchor, and just get more consistent overall. Spence totaled 72 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble in 2012.
Spence had a good Combine performance and surprised as one of the leaders in the bench press with 37 reps.
8/25/12: Spence had a big-time sophomore season as a run stuffer. He totaled 69 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2011.
Spence has a lot of upside and it will be interesting to see how he plays in 2012 without Whitney Mercilus next to him. Spence still has a nice defensive end to work with him in Michael Buchanan. Spence had 45 tackles, four tackles for a loss and one sack as a redshirt freshman. If the junior becomes a dangerous pass-rusher, his stock could skyrocket.
Michael Buchanan, DE/OLB, Illinois
Height: 6-5. Weight: 255. Arm: 33 1/4. Hand: 9 7/8. 40 Time: 4.78. Projected Round (2013): 4-5. 4/6/13: Buchanan had a great game to start the season, making a sack, an interception, a pass broken up and two tackles for a loss against Western Michigan. He was a huge disappointment after that. Buchanan totaled 57 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, five passes batted, an interception and a forced fumble in 2012. He had a mixed week at the Senior Bowl, but held his own at the Combine.
8/27/12: Buchanan was a nice complement to Whitney Mercilus in 2011 and looks primed for a big 2012 season. Buchanan had a strong junior campaign and should get better as a senior. He recorded 64 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2011. Buchanan had 40 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks as a sophomore.
Like many of the recent prospects to come out of Illinois, Buchanan is a superb athlete who has real speed. The senior needs to add some weight and power to his game, but he could be a nice option for 3-4 defenses as well.
Hugh Thornton, G, Illinois
Height: 6-3. Weight: 320. Arm: 33 5/8. Hand: 9 7/8. 40 Time: 5.11. Projected Round (2013): 5-6. 4/13/13: Thornton struggled in the one-on-ones in Mobile. His pass protection is going to need a lot of development for the NFL. Thornton is a good athlete, but he really had a hard time with speed-rushers.
Thornton was impressive at the Senior Bowl weigh-in as he is extremely well-built and is not a fat offensive lineman. Thornton was a starter at guard for Illinois for three straight seasons. His run blocking is much better than his pass protection.
Graham Pocic, C, Illinois
Height: 6-5. Weight: 305. Projected 40 Time: 5.15. Projected Round (2013): 7-FA. 4/13/13: Pocic played well overall for Illinois. He had some struggles with Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short, but played reasonably well against Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. Pocic didn't play in an All-Star game or the Combine.
8/22/12: Pocic started the past two seasons at center for Illinois. He has some real athleticism. Pocic did a good job of blocking for Mikel Leshoure in 2010. Pocic needs to improve his strength, but he has the height and frame to be able to add more mass.