Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Chargers DE Corey Liuget and Chiefs WR A.J. Jenkins both had big games in Week 17, while 12 former Illini punched their tickets for the playoffs, which start next week.
Headed to the playoffs are four Patriots (DE Michael Buchanan, CB Justin Green, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, CB Tavon Wilson), three Chiefs (OL Jeff Allen, OL Jon Asamoah, WR A.J. Jenkins), two Saints (DE Glenn Foster, RB Pierre Thomas), two Colts (CB Vontae Davis, OL Hugh Thornton) and one Charger (DE Corey Liuget).
Corey Liuget, DE, San Diego Chargers - Liuget produced a big game for the playoff-bound Chargers, recording four tackles and this sack on Chase Daniel for a six-yard loss. Liuget finished the regular season with 42 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble.
AJ Jenkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs - Jenkins produced the biggest game of his NFL career, reeling in three
catches for 67 yards, including one nifty
reception that went for 48 yards. Jenkins also had one rushing
attempt that went just one yard.
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints - Thomas rushed for 20 yards on seven carries and caught the lone pass thrown his way for three yards in Sunday's win over Tampa Day, which clinched a playoff berth for the Saints. Thomas also scored his second rushing touchdown of the season with this eight-yard run. The sixth-seeded Saints travel to Philadelphia on Saturday.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals - Mendenhall rushed for 47 yards on 10 carries and caught two passes on two targets for 13 yards in Sunday's loss to San Francisco. Mendenhall also achieved his longest rush of the season on Sunday, taking off on a 28-yard dash. Mendenhall's final numbers were eight touchdowns with 217 carries for 687 yards, a 3.2 average.
Alan Ball, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars - In his 15th start of the season, Ball tallied two tackles and one pass deflection in the 30-10 loss to the Colts. Ball finished 2013 with career highs in tackles (47), interceptions (2), and pass deflections (14).
Jeff Allen, OT, Jon Asamoah, OG, Kansas City Chiefs - In a ploy to rest their starters for the playoffs, Allen and Asamoah saw limited time on Sunday as the Chiefs lost in overtime to the Chargers. Regardless, the offensive line continued to roll, surrendering just two sacks while compiling yet another 100+ yard ground game (143 yards on Sunday). The Chiefs earned the five-seed in the AFC and will face the Colts next week.
Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts - Davis started in all 16 games for the AFC South Champion Colts. Though he did not record any stats Sunday, Davis finished the regular season with 46 tackles and one interception. The Colts face the Chiefs next week in Divisional Round action.
Whitney Mercilus, DE, Houston Texans - Mercilus started all 16 games this season for the Texans. He recorded one tackle in the loss at Tennessee. Mercilus ends the year with 47 tackles and seven sacks.
Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, New England Patriots - Hoomanawanui
played in his 13th game of the season for the Patriots while also
recording his 10th start. Hoomanawanui finished the regular season
with 12 receptions for 136 yards with one touchdown.
Akeem Spence, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Spence made his 12th straight start of the season and 14th overall in Sunday's loss to New Orleans. Spence recorded one tackle to wrap his season total at 29. Spence also had one sack in his rookie season.
Steve Weatherford, P, New York Giants - Weatherford punted the ball eight times for a 44-yard average in the Giants win over the Redskins. Weatherford finished the year with 91 punts good for a 46.9 average. His season long punt of 68 yards matched the highest of his career. He also pinned his opponents down within their 20-yard line 25 times.
Tavon Wilson, FS, New England Patriots - Wilson played in his 13th game of the season and helped the Patriots clinch the #2 seed in the AFC.
Michael Buchanan, DE, New England Patriots - Buchanan played his second straight game for the playoff bound Patriots but did not record any defensive statistics.
Tony Pashos, OL, Oakland Raiders - Started in his 12th game
of the season in the Raiders loss to the Denver Broncos. The offensive line
gave up just two sacks to the top team in the AFC.
Glenn Foster, DL, New Orleans Saints - Foster helped the Saints clinch a playoff berth after tallying one tackle in his 12th game of the season.
David Diehl, OG, New York Giants - Returned from injury to start in his 11th game of the season. The Giants had a winning record this season (6-5) when Diehl was in the lineup.
Hugh Thornton, OL, Indianapolis Colts - Thornton returned from injury to make his 12th start of the season. The Jags tallied just one sack against the Colts. Indianapolis will host the Chiefs next weekend in the Divisional Round.
Justin Green, DB, New England Patriots - Green was activated for week 17 action and saw some playing time in the Patriots win over Buffalo. It marked the second time this season Green was called upon to play for New England on the main roster.
Martez Wilson, LB, Dallas Cowboys - Inactive
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit Lions - Inactive
Former Illini on Injured Reserve
Arrelious Benn, WR, Philadelphia Eagles - Out for season with torn left ACL suffered during training camp.
Kelvin Hayden, CB, Chicago Bears - Out for season with a torn left hamstring suffered in early August.
Graham Pocic, OL, St. Louis Rams - Out for season is injury suffered during training camp.
Former Illini on NFL Practice Squads
Jack Cornell, OL, Oakland Raiders
Justin Staples, DL, Cleveland Browns