The Illinois Fighting Illini were hamstrung in 2013 by a porous defense that ranked No. 112 in total defense last season. For the Illini to make any kind of improvement as a program in 2014, they need better from the defensive side of the ball. That effort, however, will be a bit harder moving forward with the news that linebacker Mike Svetina will be out eight to 10 weeks with a broken left foot, thinning out an Illini defense with no room for error.
Last season as a sophomore, Svetina was a key piece of the defense, finishing fifth on the team with 57 tackles. He started 11 games in 2013 figured to be a prominent member of the defense again in 2014 as Illinois tried to figure out a way to replace Jonathan Brown, who led the team with 90.5 tackles and 15 tackles for loss last year before graduating. His absence will be very difficult to overcome and it will be even harder without proven commodities like Svetina in the mix.
Now, Illinois will be forced to go with more unproven talent on defense, which did not work out so well for them last year. The team named sophomore B.J. Bello as a possible replacement for Svetina, along with a “host of others” to cover the loss of the veteran defender. It’s going to be a mad reshuffling job during fall camp, which Illinois can’t really afford to do.
The saving grace for this defense in 2014 was that they were going to be able to rely on veteran experience returning to lead the way. With Svetina sidelined now for a good chunk of the season, will Illinois’ defense find a way to rebound this fall?