Three Illini named Freshman All-Americans

By Courtney Linehan

Freshman cornerback Vontae Davis picked up yet another postseason accolade Tuesday, as The Sporting News named Davis and fellow Illini Jeff Cumberland and Juice Williams to the magazine’s Freshman All-American teams.

Davis was chosen as a first-team Freshman All-American, while Cumberland and Williams were tabbed as honorable mentions.

“It’s just like we’re in this bag, waiting to explode,” Davis said last month about the potential he sees in his fellow freshmen. “There isn’t any pressure on us; we know what we’re capable of.”

Williams was one of two Big Ten quarterbacks to earn the “Wait Til Next Year” award from Williams joins Indiana’s Kellen Lewis as players the Web site expects to have breakout seasons in 2007.

Davis also garneredFreshman All-American honors from recruiting Web site The Sporting News also named the Washington, D.C., native the Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the Year.

“I’m improving. My confidence is starting to take over,” Davis said. “I don’t really worry about the game, I just play off my confidence.”

Davis started 11 of 12 games for Illinois this season, collecting 52 tackles, one interception and six pass break-ups. He registered a career-high eight tackles against Wisconsin.

Williams, who started at quarterback for three-fourths of the season, passed for 1,489 yards and threw nine touchdown passes, an Illini freshman record. As a true freshman, Williams also broke records for single-season and career rushing yards by a quarterback, rushing for 576 yards.

Cumberland, a starter at tight end, grabbed 16 catches, averaging 14.5 yards per catch. He caught one touchdown pass against Ohio on Oct. 14, and caught four passes for a career-high 62-yards against No. 1-ranked Ohio State.

“Mentally, you can’t buy what this year’s doing for these guys in terms of experience, in terms of learning how to handle the pressure, not only the football pressure but the academics,” head coach Ron Zook said. “I’ve told them every night, you remember what it’s like because we’re going to call on you to help the next class and the next class and the next one.”