Tag Archive: Jonathan Brown


Illinois Fighting Illini Prospect Preview

Nathan Scheehaase, QB, Senior- Scheelhaase feels like he has been at Illinois forever to me (and he has, this is his 5th and final year with the team) and while he showed some potential as a freshman he has largely been unimpressive in the years since. That may have something to do with changing offensive coordinators every year (we saw what that did to Alex Smith, after all) but blaming his unimpressive accuracy and relatively poor decision making on the constant change at offensive coordinator doesn’t add up to me. Still, it looks like the 6’3”, 200 pound senior will be the starter over Riley O’Toole (who threw four, yes FOUR, interceptions in the spring game) in spite of throwing for just 1,361 yards on 246 attempts (60.6% completion) with 4 touchdowns and 8 interceptions (usually you hope for the direct opposite ratio). He doesn’t have a very strong arm, he’s not accurate, he doesn’t protect the football, and he doesn’t have a lot of poise in the pocket. Sounds like the next Andrew Luck right? I don’t think Scheelhaase will have a great senior year, but I’ve never been a big fan and I will be very surprised if he is drafted whether it is at quarterback or wide receiver.

Wes Lunt, QB, Sophomore- I really wish Lunt could start this year but unfortunately we will all have to wait a year. I was a fan of Lunt at Oklahoma State and was rooting for him to win the starting job despite being a true freshman. He had an up and down freshman year, but upon realizing that he wouldn’t be the starter he elected to transfer. He’s still young, and he will have a year to learn Cubit’s system before he has to play, and I think he has some upside. He’s more of a pocket passer which theoretically fits Cubit’s system better, and I think he has much better arm strength than Scheelhaase. So I for one am excited to see if he can win the starting job over O’Toole (god I hope so) so I can see what he brings to the table for two or three years as the starter.

Donovonn Young, RB, Junior- I have been on the Donovonn Young bandwagon since he was a freshman and I’m not hopping off now. The offensive line was underwhelming last year (despite my fandom of Hugh Thornton) and Young only got 131 carries which he turned into 571 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those obviously aren’t eye popping numbers, but he also led the team in receptions with 38 and added 172 receiving yards and another touchdown through the air. He’s a complete back and at 6’0”, 220 he is a load to bring down in the open field. I’d say he has about 4.5 speed, some quickness, reliable hands out of the backfield, and he runs hard which I like to see. I don’t think he’s on Rashard Mendenhall’s level yet, but I still believe he has similar upside. If the Illini can solidify their offensive line I think Young could surprise a lot of people, he’s a talented back.

Justin Hardee, WR, Sophomore- The Illini have two senior wide receivers in Spencer Harris and Ryan Lankford, but neither one jumped off the screen to me when I watched Illinois during the season or in the spring game. The kid who DID jump off the screen was then freshman, now sophomore Justin Hardee. Hardee is listed at 6’1”, 190 pounds and I’m not sure how fast he is, but boy does he have good hands. He was snagging passes outside of his frame like it was nothing in the spring game and actually went over 100 yards in the game despite O’Toole’s ineptitude. Hardee is buried on the depth chart behind more experienced players like Lankford, Harris, and Martize Barr, but I think Hardee has more upside than all of them. He had 17 receptions for 192 yards last year as a true freshman, but I’m hoping he gets more playing time because I seriously think he might have the best hands on the team.

Jon Davis, TE, Junior- Jon Davis is an interesting case because while he showed a lot of promise as a freshman his production dropped from 22 receptions, 187 yards and 1 touchdown as a freshman to just 9 receptions, 88 yards and 1 touchdown as a sophomore. In fact, he had 12 more attempts RUSHING than he did receptions which I could hardly believe. He’s clearly an impressive athlete as he managed 102 yards and 1 touchdown on his 21 attempts, but I think all Illinois fans want to see him become more of a focus in the passing game as a junior and a senior. He’s got a lot of upside, but the 6’3”, 240 pound H-Back just hasn’t lived up to it yet. Hopefully he takes a big step forward as a junior, but until the quarterback play is elevated it’s going to be hard for him to put up significant numbers.

Alex Hill, C, Junior- Hill is a favorite of alioneye.com and I have to say I’m intrigued with him as well. He’s listed at 6’3”, 325 pounds and I love that size in a Center. He doesn’t have much previous experience having only started 3 games in his first two seasons, but he played in 11 games last year including one start at left guard. It sounds like the Illini haven’t had the luxury of developing their young linemen and instead have essentially been playing them before they were likely ready which explains some of their poor offensive line play last year. I’m still skeptical that their offensive line will be much better this year, but they return three starters (though Simon Cvijanovic will be moving to left tackle full time) and Hill is replacing Graham Pocic at center. Since Hill doesn’t have a lot of starting experience I’m not very familiar with his game, but he’s definitely one of the guys I’ll be keeping an eye on up front.

Simon Cvijanovic, OT, Junior- Cvijanovic caught my eye both because of his last name and because he has 15 career starts (13 at right tackle, just two at left tackle) but he will be the starting left tackle for the Illini this year. Cvijanovic is listed at 6’5”, 295 pounds and has shown me some upside as a wall-off blocker, but I’m interested to see more of him from a pass protection perspective at left tackle. He doesn’t look overly comfortable in his kick slide on the left side, though he does seem to have pretty good lateral agility. He’s still a relative unknown to me but he’s one of Illinois’ top returning linemen so he’s definitely on my watch list.

Houston Bates, DE, Junior- Bates is a linebacker who has been converted to defensive end so his speed and athleticism isn’t the question mark. He’s listed at 6’3”, 240 pounds so he will need to gain some weight if he’s going to hold up at defensive end in the Big-10. However, if there’s one player who I think could provide some boost to Illinois’ pass rush this year I think it is Bates. I don’t have any tape to base that on since he’s moving to a new position this year, but I’m excited to see what he can produce from a pass rush perspective.

Jonathan Brown, OLB, Senior- Brown is the top senior or junior prospect on the Illini in my opinion. I’ve been watching him since he was a sophomore and while he had a great sophomore year he hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations for him. Some of that has to do with injuries, but if he can stay healthy I think he can recreate his sophomore season where he had 108 tackles and 18.5 TFL. He was a force that year, but injuries robbed him of 3 games and 5 starts as a junior. The 6’1”, 235 pound linebacker still managed 59 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 TFL and 1 pass break-up as a junior though. Brown may not be the biggest linebacker but he is a good athlete, a reliable tackler, and he has a high football IQ. He struggles when asked to shed blocks and can get caught up in trash at times, but I think he projects pretty well to a weak-side linebacker role at the next level. He has day 2 upside, but he needs to stay healthy and show what he can do all year to help revive his stock a bit.

Mason Monheim, MLB, Sophomore- Monheim had a great freshman year and honestly watching him I wouldn’t have guessed that he was a true freshman. He had some trouble trying to spy Braxton Miller in the Ohio State game, but that’s not an easy task for anyone, much less a true freshman, to accomplish. He’s another relatively undersized linebacker who is listed at 6’1”, 230 pounds and he led the team with 86 tackles last year. He also added 1.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1 pass break-up and an interception. He seems to have similar instincts as Jonathan Brown and also struggles to shed blocks much like Brown does. He has room to grow though, so he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Quarterback Rankings:

1-      Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal

2-      Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee*

3-      Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

4-      Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech*

5-      Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

6-      Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia*

7-      E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State

8-      Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

9-      Casey Pachall, QB, TCU*

10-   Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Running Back Rankings:

1-      Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina*

2-      Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

3-      Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas*

4-      Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State*

5-      Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina*

6-      Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh

7-      Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M*

8-      Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama*

9-      Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

10-   Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas

Wide Receiver Rankings:

1-      Robert Woods, WR, Southern Cal*

2-      Keenan Allen, WR, California*

3-      Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee*

4-      Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State*

5-      Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee*

6-      Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

7-      Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

8-      Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

9-      Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon

10-   Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Tight End Rankings:

1-      Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame*

2-      Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State

3-      Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA

4-      Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn

5-      Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford*

6-      Michael Williams, TE, Alabama

7-      Jordan Reed, TE, Florida*

8-      Ryan Griffin, TE, Connecticut

9-      Colter Phillips, TE, Virginia

10-   Ben Cotton, TE, Nebraska
Offensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Chris Faulk, OT, LSU*

2-      Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M*

3-      Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin

4-      D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama*

5-      Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*

6-      Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia

7-      Alex Hurst, OT, LSU

8-      Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse

9-      Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M*

10-   James Hurst, OT, North Carolina*
Offensive Guard Rankings:

1-      Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama

2-      Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

3-      Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

4-      Travis Frederick, OG, Wisconsin*

5-      Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas*

6-      Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky

7-      Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Georgia Tech

8-      Braden Hansen, OG, BYU

9-      Blaize Foltz, OG, TCU

10-   Lane Taylor, OG, Oklahoma State
Center Rankings:

1-      Khaled Holmes, C, Southern Cal

2-      Graham Pocic, C, Illinois

3-      Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas*

4-      James Ferentz, C, Iowa

5-      Mario Benavides, C, Louisville

6-      Dalton Freeman, C, Clemson

7-      Matt Stankiewitch, C, Penn State

8-      Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia

9-      Braxton Cave, C, Notre Dame

10-   Ivory Wade, C, Baylor
Defensive End Rankings:

1-      Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU*

2-      Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas*

3-      Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

4-      Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State*

5-      Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

6-      Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

7-      Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

8-      Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

9-      James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech*

10-   William Gholston, DE, Michigan State*
Defensive Tackle Rankings:

1-      Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

2-      Johnathon Hankins, DT, Ohio State*

3-      Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

4-      Bennie Logan, DT, LSU*

5-      Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

6-      Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

7-      Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia

8-      Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois*

9-      Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida*

10-   Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Middle Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame

2-      Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford

3-      Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina

4-      Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State

5-      Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama

6-      Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State

7-      Jonathan Brown, ILB, Illinois*

8-      Bruce Taylor, ILB, Virginia Tech

9-      Jonathan Bostic, ILB, Florida

10-   Christian Robinson, ILB, Georgia
Outside Linebacker Rankings:

1-      Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia*

2-      Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU*

3-      Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M

4-      Brandon Jenkins, OLB, Florida State

5-      C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama*

6-      Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State

7-      Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida*

8-      Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford

9-      Khaseem Green, OLB, Rutgers

10-   Kenny Tate, OLB, Maryland
Cornerback Rankings:

1-      David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State*

2-      Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State*

3-      Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

4-      Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU*

5-      Jonny Adams, CB, Michigan State

6-      Nickell Robey, CB, Southern Cal*

7-      Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas*

8-      Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State

9-      Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

10-   Tharold Simon, CB, LSU*
Safety Rankings:

1-      Eric Reid, FS, LSU*

2-      T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern Cal

3-      Kenny Vaccaro, SS, Texas

4-      Robert Lester, FS, Alabama

5-      Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma*

6-      Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia

7-      Ray Ray Armstrong, SS, Miami

8-      John Boyett, SS, Oregon

9-      Matt Elam, SS, Florida*

10-   Vaughn Telemaque, FS, Miami

Wisconsin-Illinois:

-Montee Ball was the man in this game. He had a fantastic game rushing 38 times for 224 yards and 2 TD’s. He also added two receptions for a cumulative total of -1 yards, but he had a 5 yard reception for a touchdown to help bring Wisconsin back early in the 2nd half. I can’t say enough good things about Montee Ball. Last year he looked like he lacked burst, might have been carrying too much weight, and while he was still very effective I didn’t think he was a legitimate NFL prospect. This year he dropped about 25 pounds and the second I saw him touch the ball for the first time this year I immediately said “Wow, Montee looks like a completely different back.” He has so much more burst, so much more speed to finish runs, and hits the hole harder and faster. He still runs the ball hard, he runs through arm tackles with ease, he can run guys over when he puts his head down, and he gains a lot of yardage after contact. He has very reliable hands out of the backfield, and overall strikes me as a very complete back. Will he go in the first round? I’m not sure, but I would definitely put a 2nd round grade on him at this point. He has feature back written all over him in the NFL, and has proven that he can be an every down back because of the emphasis Wisconsin puts on running the ball and working the clock. Montee Ball, it’s time to go pro! I’ll have a scouting report up on him this upcoming week.

-Russell Wilson was not the headliner of this game by any stretch of the imagination. Montee Ball literally carried them, and Wilson was essentially a glorified bystander. He was 10/13 for only 90 yards and 1 touchdown (to Montee Ball) and ran for another touchdown on a naked bootleg at the goal line. Wilson has had much better games, and while he only threw three incompletions two of them were poor throws while he had plenty of room in the pocket to throw. He missed both high, and the second pass was not a clean spiral. Once Wisconsin had taken control of the game he did convert two throws on 3rd downs with ease to extend their drives which should not be overlooked, but I think Wisconsin could have handled Illinois very easily in this game if Wilson had been more of a difference maker in the passing game. You wouldn’t know it by looking at the statistics, but for a while Illinois was doing a solid job of taking Montee Ball away and Wilson wasn’t moving the ball for Wisconsin. Ball and Wisconsin’s offensive line wore Illinois down in the second half, but if that hadn’t happened I don’t know if Wilson could have won this game for Wisconsin today throwing the ball.

AJ Jenkins- Jenkins had an average game with only 4 receptions for 33 yards, but he was impressive. He had a touchdown called back by a very questionable offensive pass interference call on a TE who allegedly “picked” the defender like a basketball player, but in reality he barely touched him as he ran by him (his shoulder nicked Fenelus who was in coverage on the play). Jenkins had created legitimate separation over the middle, caught it cleanly and picked up the rest for a TD only to have it called back. Later on same drive Illinois was inaccurately called for a second “picking” penalty and this was even worse Darius Millines, a wide receiver on Illinois, stopped his route and avoided the defender and may not have actually touched him. Yet, the penalty was still called and another catch and run by Jenkins (this time down inside the five) was negated by a bad call by the refs. Jenkins was matched up with Fenelus the entire game from what I saw, and it was a pretty even battle. Jenkins created separation relatively consistently and if it weren’t for those penalties he would have had about 50-60 yards and potentially a touchdown. I’m a huge Jenkins fan and while I don’t think he’s a 1st or 2nd rounder because I don’t think he has great deep speed he strikes me as a nice #2 or slot receiver in the NFL because of his good hands, willingness to go over the middle, ability to make catches in traffic, and because he can make defenders miss in the open field to pick up yards after the catch.

-Antonio Fenelus had a very good game today. He was matched up on AJ Jenkins all game and while Jenkins did make some plays and create separation against him Fenelus held his own in coverage. Overall he had pretty good coverage on deep throws, he used the sideline well as a defender, but he did get beat deep on at least one play when Jenkins had separation down the middle but O’Toole’s pass was underthrown in the face of the wind. As a result, Fenelus recovered and made a great diving interception on the play. Fenelus had another shot at an interception but it went right through his hands, was tipped around and eventually intercepted by Aaron Henry. I’ve liked Fenelus since I watched him last year and personally feel that he is underrated. He’s not an elite corner prospect, but I think he has NFL ability and is worth mid-round consideration.

-Jeff Allen is the left tackle on Illinois. He has a lot of starting experience with over 30 career starts under his belt, and might actually be a four year starter. I’m not sold on him sticking at LT in the NFL, but I think his upside might be as a right tackle in a zone blocking scheme. He’s pretty agile for his size (listed at 6’5″, 315 pounds) and gets off the ball effectively, especially in the running game. I haven’t seen him much so I don’t know how well he cuts, but he is not a drive blocker so putting him in a man blocking scheme that relies on driving defenders off the ball is not where his upside lies. He does seal well and positions himself effectively to create running lanes for Illinois’ running backs, but I don’t think he has as much upside in a man scheme as he does in a zone scheme. He had a solid game against Whitney Mercilus because he didn’t have as many issues with him attempting to speed rush, but he struggles with speed and I don’t think he has the lateral agility and kick slide to mirror elite NFL pass rushers. I think he could be a solid/quality RT, but is a potential back-up LT that could play there in a pinch. That gives him some value, but I still grade him as a 4th round guy right now. If he has to move to RT his inability to move defenders off the ball in the run game hurts his value if he is forced to move there.

-This was the first game I have gotten to see Whitney Mercilus in since he has caught fire and garnered significant National attention. He’s a legitimate prospect, but I think he has to stick at LE in the NFL. He doesn’t have the edge speed to stick at RE in my opinion. He’s a strong guy with a lot of potential, but it was hard to evaluate him as a pass rusher when Russell Wilson only threw the ball 13 times and Montee Ball had 38 carries for 224 yards. I like his potential, but I need to see more. He had 17.5 TFL and 12.5 sacks coming into the game today, so I just need tos ee more of him.

-Michael Buchanan is another one of Illinois’ talented defensive linemen. He was on my list of potential break-out players before the season began and has produced 11.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks and 1 forced fumble on the year (before the Wisconsin game). He’s got great speed off the edge, but he needs to get stronger and add weight to stand up better against the run. He’s got potential, but still needs developing and coaching.

-Illinois middle linebacker Jonathan Brown may only be a sophomore but he is a star. Before today’s game he had 78 total tackles (only 29 solo), 14.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 4 pass break-ups, 1 forced fumble and an interception. He has great instincts, he fills well, he flows to the ball well, and he just makes plays. I’m a huge fan and he is definitely someone to keep an eye on. He showed up often today as he always does.

-Ian Thomas is an underrated linebacker in my opinion. He’s only 6’1″, 235 pounds but he was filling very well when he had the opportunity to against Wisconsin. Is he a top 100 guy? No, but he’s a quality tackler with 64 tackles (23 solo), 8.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks so far this year. He’s got draftable ability in my opinion, but no one is talking about him. I think he will at worst get picked up as a UDFA and make a roster because of his potential contributions on special teams.

Yale-Harvard:

-Patrick Witt was the only reason I watched some of this game, and while I think he has some arm talent and accuracy I was not overly impressed. He stared down his receivers regularly, didn’t make very good decisions and ended up with two interceptions before I tuned back in to the Wisconsin-Illinois game. He has enough ability to be brought on as a UDFA, but I’m not sure he has draftable talent beyond late round consideration right now. He could make himself some money with a quality performance in a post-season game like the East-West Shrine Game though.

Michigan-Nebraska:

-Alfonzo Dennard didn’t seem to have a very good game against Michigan. I didn’t see much of the game, but when I watched I was not very impressed. I like him, but he hasn’t been helping his stock a lot in recent weeks.

-David Molk may be my #1 senior center in this class. He’s not very big, but he’s very mobile, has tons of starting experience, and is overall very reliable. He won’t be able to block a DT one on one in the NFL very often, but he’s intelligent and should have a very long NFL career. Not a 1st round pick, but definitely warrants 2nd-3rd round consideration.

-Denard Robinson should just move to slot receiver. I know Michigan won this game, but he could be such a dynamic receiver in the slot and that is the only position he has a NFL future at. Just bite the bullet Michigan!

I focused on the Illinois-Wisconsin game, but I had a few notes on the other prospects as well. Enjoy the rest of the games tonight!

–Tom