Illini LB Brown named finalist for Butkus Award

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Illini LB Brown named finalist for Butkus Award

Jonathan Brown brought a ray of sunshine to an otherwise gloomy Illinois defense on Monday. The junior was announced as one of 12 semi-finalists for the Butkus award for his outstanding play at linebacker this season.
"It's a great honor to be a semifinalist. Hopefully I can keep playing at a high level and win," Brown said with a smile on Monday.
That the Illinois junior has played well enough to be among the semi-finalists this year is rather amazing. For the past few weeks Brown has not been able to perform at his peak because of injury.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman called Browns ability to gut it out and stay on the playing field, courageous.
He hasnt been 100 percent, you can see that on filmbut hes stepped up and tried to do what he is capable of doing to help us win football games, he said.
Brown acknowledged he has been less than his best this year, but expects to be at or near his best in Illinois final five games.
Me personally, Ive been banged up. I havent been as explosive as I can be, he said. Its been a challenge the past couple of weeks, but that doesnt matter anymore. Ive moved past it and Im feeling good right now. Im excited to get back on the field.
Im good to play, thats all that matters to me. This week got me closer to 100 percent. You cant go through the Big Ten season at 100 percent; youll always have a bruise or something. Thats how the game is played, he added.
Brown added that some of his, and the entire defenses, issues (aside from injury) have come as a result of the coaching and personnel changes from last year to this year. He did not use that as an excuse, however, and asserted that the defense would be much improved beginning with Illinois game against Indiana on Saturday.
So far this year Brown has amassed 44 tackles, including 1.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. He has forced a fumble and recovered a fumble as well. In the 2011 season Brown had a total of 108 tackles, with six sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss.
The Butkus award, named for Dick Butkus, the legendary Illinois and Chicago Bears linebacker, honors the nations best high school, collegiate and professional linebackers annually. The collegiate winner will be announced on December 4.

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Yoan Moncada's first White Sox game had same 'special' feeling as MLB debut

Yoan Moncada's first White Sox game had same 'special' feeling as MLB debut

First came the roar from the home crowd. Then a bunch of fans in the first deck beyond third base stood to watch Yoan Moncada. The patient approach surfaced next.

Moncada made his White Sox debut on Wednesday night and although it didn’t feature any highlight reel moments, there were plenty of good signs. Moncada drew a walk in his first plate appearance and also lined out hard to center field in his last. The rookie second baseman went 0-for-2 as the White Sox lost 9-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“It was fun to watch him come in,” pitcher Carlos Rodon said. “I saw him in Triple-A for a while, he’s a great talent. It’s good to have some good defense. That first at-bat was obviously really good. Fought it back to 3-2, got that walk. Two good swings.”

“It was cool. It got very loud when he came up to the plate, as we expected. That was fun to watch.”

The hype and energy surrounding the arrival of baseball’s top prospect was easy to detect.

The amount of media members on hand to document Moncada’s first game was akin to an Opening Day crowd. Every camera was aimed on Moncada, who flew in from Rochester, N.Y. earlier in the day to join the White Sox.

News of Moncada’s promotion at 11 p.m. Tuesday boosted the announced crowd of 24,907 by 5,000 fans, according to the team. Fans arrived early, some in Moncada White Sox No. 10 jerseys direct from China, while others brought Twinkies, the second baseman’s favorite snack food. Moncada spotted some of those bearing the sugary snacks when he stepped out of the home dugout and onto the field about 45 minutes before first pitch. Moncada, a former teammate of Jose Abreu’s in Cuba, received a loud ovation as he started to stretch.

“I was excited with the way the fans treated me and how they were cheering me,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “I was really happy in that at-bat and excited because all that atmosphere and the excitement in the ballpark.”

The rumble was even louder when Moncada stepped in for his first Major League plate appearance since he played for the Boston Red Sox last September. Though he quickly fell behind in the count 0-2 against Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda, Moncada never wavered. He took several closes pitches, fouled off two more, and drew a nine-pitch walk.

“He had some nice at-bats,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Obviously worked a walk. Hit two balls well. He looked very comfortable. Turned a nice double play. I think he didn’t look overwhelmed. I think he ended his first day here with us as well as you could have it be. I know he didn’t get any hits but I thought he had some pretty good at-bats.”

Moncada’s second trip resulted in a groundout to first base. He fell behind 0-2 once again before working the count even. Moncada then ripped an 88-mph from Maeda down the right-field line only to have it go foul by several feet before grounding out on the next pitch.

Moncada got ahead 2-0 in the count in his final plate appearance as he faced reliever Ross Strippling. He produced an easy, fluid swing on the 2-0 pitch and ripped a 93-mph fastball for a line drive but it found the glove of center fielder Joc Pederson. The ball exited Moncada’s bat at 102.5 mph, which normally results in a hit 62.5 percent of the time, according to baseballsavant.com.

“I felt good,” Moncada said. “I think that I executed my plan. I didn't get any hits but I hit the ball hard and I executed my plan.”

“I made my debut last year but this one was special, it had kind of the same feeling for me.”