Mason Monheim didn’t arrive at Illinois with a ton of fanfare locally, but he was certainly well known in Ohio for his exploits on the high school gridiron.
In 2010, Monheim led his team, and the entire area with 191 tackles. Yeah, 191 total tackles. That’s not a typo, and it’s pretty eye catching to say the least. In 2011, he followed up a sensational junior year by registering 129 tackles, including thirteen tackles for loss and three sacks.
All of these tackles provided the foundation for Monheim being named a two-time Division IV Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time Associated Press Division IV first-team All-State player in the state of Ohio. In the recruiting ranking world, this production earned Monheim a three star recruit ranking from both scout.com and rivals.com.
So, it really should come as no surprise that Mason Monheim stepped onto the field at Illinois and did what he has seemingly always done which is tackle, tackle, tackle, and tackle some more. He finished his freshman season with the Illini starting the final ten games of the season, and led the Illini defense with 86 total tackles, including six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and one interception.
The Big Ten certainly took notice by naming Monheim the Freshman of the Week on two separate occasions following a pair of games in which he registered double digit tackle figures (11 vs. Penn State, 15 vs. Minnesota).
The awards kept rolling in following last season, as well renowned college football blogger Phil Steele naming Monheim to his 2012 Postseason All Freshman 2nd Team Defense. More recently, Steele has kept the faith in Monheim’s abilities and named him to his 2013 Preseason All-Big 10 Team 4th Team Defense.
As you can see, Monheim’s history shows a level of consistency that suggests higher tackle rates are looming on the horizon as he becomes more confident playing in the Big Ten. Illinois certainly found a keeper, and possible 4-year starter at LB, when they were the first FBS program to offer him a scholarship back in 2010 under then Coach Ron Zook.
A return to defensive dominance will hinge on Monheim continuing to develop and asserting himself alongside a hopefully fully healthy Jonathan Brown. Together, Illinois has a chance to have one of the better linebacking corps in the entire Big Ten with Brown and Monheim imposing their will on would be ball carriers.
2013 Stat Predictions: 105 Total Tackles, 3 Sacks, 2 FF, 1 INT
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