2012 NFL Draft Capsule: DE Whitney Mercilus

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2012 NFL Draft Capsule: DE Whitney Mercilus

Whitney Mercilus (DE), Illinois
6-4 265 lbs.

2011 Stats:
57 tackles, 22.5 TFL, 16 sacks, 9 FF

Projection:
Mid-to-late first round

Strengths:
Mercilus possesses a strong frame with good length and uses his hands to keep himself clean on contact. He displays an impressive wingspan and can overwhelm on contact using natural power on his leg to drive through contact. Showcases a solid spin move once he gets to the edge and can work his way back inside if the tackle is over playing toward the edge. (National Football Post)

Weaknesses:
One major concern for Mercilus is that he has only had one year of solid production, with only two total sacks going into his junior season. He struggles with pad level through contact and struggles to disengage. He too often allows ball carriers to run right by him on the edge when unblocked and is easily pushed past the pocket. (National Football Post)

Fit for the Bears:
The Bears are known to have interest in Mercilus. Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli traveled to Champaign to put him through a workout last month. After losing out on Mario Williams in free agency, Chicago has made it a priority to improve their pass-rush in the draft. The standout defensive end from Illinois is a natural pass rusher and learning from a future Hall of Famer like Julius Peppers could help ease his transition into the NFL. Mercilus has drawn comparisons to Giants' sack machine Jason Pierre-Paul. If he were to reach that level, it would be a home run pick for Phil Emery and the Bears.

Sunday on CSN: UIC travels to Valparaiso

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Sunday on CSN: UIC travels to Valparaiso

Horizon League basketball returns to CSN on Sunday as UIC travels to Valparaiso. This game tips at 2:00 p.m. live on CSN.

The Flames (11-8, 4-2) have won three straight games and have played pretty good ball after the loss of Dikembe Dixson to a torn ACL. Junior big man Tai Odiase, a Homewood-Flossmoor graduate, is playing well along with former St. Rita product Dominique Matthews.

Valparaiso (15-4, 5-1) is hoping to maintain its conference lead behind senior All-American candidate Alec Peters. The 6-foot-9 senior is averaging 23.9 points and 10.9 rebounds per game on the season.

The Crusaders won the first time these two teams played at UIC on Dec. 30 as Tevonn Walker had 23 points.

Saturday on CSN: Loyola, Illinois State host Missouri Valley opponents

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Saturday on CSN: Loyola, Illinois State host Missouri Valley opponents

CSN will have two Missouri Valley Conference games with local teams on Saturday. 

The first game tips at 3 p.m. live on CSN as Evansville heads to Loyola. The second game tips at 7 p.m. and is also live on CSN as Drake will play at Illinois State.

Loyola (13-7, 3-4) is coming off of a tough road loss in double overtime to Northern Iowa. The Ramblers have been led by senior Milton Doyle this season as the former Marshall star is one of the better guards in the Valley.

Evansville (10-10, 1-6) has dropped five straight games as they're struggling to gain any momentum in conference play. Senior guard Jaylon Brown is having an outstanding season for the Purple Aces as he's putting up 21.2 points per game.

The second matchup has Drake (6-13, 4-3) traveling to Illinois State. The Bulldogs have won three of four games and junior guard Reed Timmer is dangerous while former Saint Viator product Ore Arogundade is having a solid sophomore season. 

Illinois State (15-4, 7-0) is leading the Valley after a huge win over Wichita State as they've won eight straight games. The Redbirds are hoping to make a run to an NCAA tournament bid with another home win.