Illinois Fighting Illini defensive tackle Akeem Spence burst onto the scene in the college football world as a freshman back in 2010, where he was named to the First-Team Freshman All-American team by Phil Steele, Rivals.com and the FWAA. Since that impressive freshman season, Spence has continued to be a standout player and dominant force along the Fighting Illini defensive line.
One NFL scout told ESPN’s Todd McShay that it is “almost certain” that Dent will leave for the 2013 NFL Draft, despite a season in which the entire Illinois defensive unit has under performed.
How does Dent’s talent stack up for a potential translation to the NFL? McShay writes:
Spence has been a standout on the Illini defense this season. He has a quick first step, is strong for his size (6-1, 305) and is consistently disruptive versus the run. Spence would have plenty of company in the 2013 defensive tackle class, but he’s talented enough to figure in the Day 2 mix.
Illinois is used to sending underclassmen to the next level. Over the past five years, the Fighting Illini have sent seven underclassmen to the NFL. The last two underclassmen to leave Illinois early have been defensive linemen Whitney Mercilus and Corey Liuget. Both players were selected in the first round, but it is unlikely Spence will suffer the same fate.
Running back Mikel Leshoure and linebacker Martez Wilson also joined Liuget and left the program early in 2011.