Q&A; with Illini senior linebacker J Leman

J Leman is congratulated by Alan Ball after making a big stop late against Wisconsin on October 28 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Leman, a preseason All-American linebacker, has high hopes for this upcoming season, his final year of eligibility Steve Contorno

J Leman is congratulated by Alan Ball after making a big stop late against Wisconsin on October 28 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Leman, a preseason All-American linebacker, has high hopes for this upcoming season, his final year of eligibility Steve Contorno

By Jason Grodsky

Illinois senior linebacker and Blue Ribbon Preseason First-Team All-American J Leman was in attendance at the Big Ten Media days on Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago. The Champaign native took time to sit down and talk with the Daily Illini about the media event, his offseason workouts and the upcoming Camp Rantoul.

Daily Illini: It’s your second time coming to the Big Ten Media event. As a player, what’s this experience like for you?

J Leman: It’s cool to be able to meet a lot of different media people and different characters, but it’s not like being out on the field and playing football.

DI: With summer workouts winding down, has there been anyone who you have seen that has really stepped up and impressed you?

JL: Martez Wilson is going to be a special player. His talent is amazing, but we’ll be able to tell more when the guys put on the pads.

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    DI: What do you feel the defense has to improve on going into the season?

    JL: We need to get more turnovers this season and bounce back from bad things that happen on the field. If the opposing offense gets a big play on us, we need to bounce back and forget about it and just play the next play. We just can’t let the circumstances get the best of us.

    DI: Over the last few seasons you’ve developed into one of the defensive leaders on the team. What do you feel has made that possible and made you an effective player on and off the field?

    JL: I knew that if I stuck with the things I was doing and continued to work hard, live right and take care of business off the field it would make a difference. How you treat people and what you do in the classroom really does make a difference in who you are. When I took care of those things, I knew I would get my chance to make plays and be the player I am.

    DI: With everyone going into the season with high expectations for you, what do you feel you need to do to get better and take the step to the next level?

    JL: For me it’s similar to what we need to do as a defense overall. I just have to forget about a bad play and move on. You’re only as good as your next play. I also think I need to work on my pass coverage. I’m always trying to improve and I know I’m not quite there yet.

    DI: When you first arrived as a freshman did you ever see yourself heading into your senior season as one of the premier linebackers in the Big Ten and an All-American candidate?

    JL: I knew I had the ability to be a good football player, but I wouldn’t have imagined this. I have to say that God has been good. He’s helped me do more than I could ever ask for.

    DI: With the new stadium renovations and a talented group of players coming to Illinois, do you feel there is a buzz around Champaign for Illini football?

    JL: There is definitely a lot of excitement in Champaign right now. We’re ready to go and want to prove to everyone we can go out and win.

    DI: Heading into the season what are your expectations for this year’s team?

    JL: I think that this year we have the tools and the talent in place. We proved we could play with anyone last year and we were just a couple of plays late in games to winning. Now we just have to go out and finish games and turn the corner. We can be in the upper echelon of the Big Ten, but we can’t dwell on the past. It’s our year to make things right.