Birthday: August 17, 1980
Strengths: Illinois’ aggressive new defense in 2001 asked a lot of the Illini cornerbacks, putting them on islands to handle receivers man-on-man. Eugene Wilson responded to the challenge. He lead the nation with 30 passes broken up and also snagged six interceptions, with three coming in one game against Penn State. As these stats indicate, he reacts very well when the ball is in the air and has great instincts for reading the receiver and positioning himself to make a play. Why did opponents keep throwing in his direction? Wilson baits quarterbacks by allowing the receiver to get open and then making his move on the ball.
A former high school point guard, Wilson is an excellent all-around athlete with outstanding quickness and agility. He has nice size and straight-line speed for an NFL cornerback. Wilson also serves as Illinois’ primary kickoff and punt return man, averaging 19.6 yards per kick return and 10 yards per punt return.
Areas for Concern: Wilson’s last game of his junior year is one that he would like to forget. LSU torched Wilson and the Illini for 421 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air in the Sugar Bowl. Tiger wide receiver Josh Reed, the Bills’ second-round pick in April, dominated Wilson, posting 14 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson had 12 tackles for the night, but too many of them came after LSU completions. He must show in 2002 that the Sugar Bowl was an aberration.
Wisconsin speedster Lee Evans also enjoyed success against Wilson, finishing the game with nine receptions for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson’s gambling style of play results in big plays for either him or his opponent, and his track record against quality receivers like Reed and Evans does not bode well for his future in the NFL if he continues with this approach.
How Would He Look in Steel Blue? Wilson’s knack for playing the ball is a great asset, but his games of high stakes poker with opposing receivers are a definite cause for concern. Dom Capers would clearly love a cornerback with Wilson’s abilities, but the Texans’ coach is also a stickler for consistency with little tolerance for players who make game-impacting mistakes.
(profile written by Warren DeLuca)
Eugene Wilson’s 2001 Stats G TCK PBU INT FF FR 12 70 30 6 1 0 Eugene Wilson Return to The War Room
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