We have officially reached that sweet spot of the year where there is considerably less Illinois Fighting Illini material to write about. Basketball is over. Camp Rantoul is months away. Another successful wrestling season has come and gone. Yes, there is still baseball and golf but there's a lot less to write about those teams even though they're both doing great this year.
Which leads to weirdness (my preferred nomenclature for filler). While sitting around and thinking about what various breeds of dog I'd love to own if money and space were no issue, I came to the realization that our starting quarterback is exactly like an Irish wolfhound. Things slowly spiraled into me leaving post-it notes around my apartment full of comparisons between young men and random dog breeds no one actually encounters. You're welcome.
Since I already spoiled this one in the last paragraph, it seems like a good place to start. Irish wolfhounds are amazing. As the name says, they were originally bred to hunt wolves, boars, stags, and Irish elk. That takes one incredibly physically impressive dog. When on their hind legs they are are as tall as a grown adult human. Just marvelous physical specimens.
But dear lord are they fragile. Irish wolfhounds don't have the longest of lifespans and when you have that much muscle on such a lanky frame, injuries are an ever-present worry. If Wes Lunt can stay healthy for an entire season, he has the physical talents to be one of the best quarterbacks in Illinois history. But it's hard to not at least recognize that he's always one bad tackle away from being sidelined.
Sometimes people seem to forget that Labradors are awesome dogs simply because you're so used to seeing them everywhere. They're smart, they're friendly, they're absurdly athletic, they catch everything thrown at them, and incredibly reliable. But because you run into one seemingly every five minutes, they tend to get less dog breed love and recognition.
Josh Ferguson is yet another solid and consistent Illini running back in a program that somehow manages to crank them out with regularity. And while he didn't make that big junior year jump we all hoped for, he's already had a pretty amazing career. Fergie is 24 yards shy of being the record holder for receiving yards in school history for a running back. If he simply repeats last season this year, he'll graduate in 3rd place for career all-purpose yardage. Not bad for a guy who tends to get overlooked.
Despite usually being on the smaller end of what you would call medium-sized, border collies are among the smartest and fastest of all dog breeds. They're tiny fluffy bolts of lightning that can be taught to do almost anything thanks to outstanding natural instincts. If that doesn't scream of our sophomore phenom wide receiver, I don't really know what else to tell you. Actually, yes I do. Look at that mane. That plume of hair is positively border collien.
To give you some perspective, that is a picture of a Great Pyrenees as a puppy. Much like Gooey, it hasn't fully grown into the mountain it will eventually become but it is already simply massive. The Great Pyrenees was originally bred (and is still used) to protect livestock herds living in the mountains of France and Spain. "What dangers could possibly be living in such mountain ranges?" you may ask, somehow not knowing or remembering that nothing good tends to live in such inhospitable places.
Wolves and bears. This fluffy goofball exists to protect sheep and goats from monsters that want nothing more than to eat them. And guess what? They happen to be excellent at it. Megginson's job will be to protect whatever backs lineup behind him from the anger demons of the other teams' defenses. Here's hoping he turns out like a Great Pyrenees.
That mass of solid muscle is a Dogo Argentino. As you may have surmised, it is a guardian breed of dog that happens to be from Argentina. And while Argentina may not have the wolves and bears found in the mountains of Europe, it does tend to have its own fun (read: terrifying) batch of apex predators: jaguars and pumas. Can you imagine trying to create something that's express purpose is to attack a jaguar and win? That is a terrifying animal.
It is coming for you. It is going to eat you. And there is not a damn thing you can do to stop it. Have fun sleeping, other Big Ten quarterbacks.
Tall, lanky, and incredibly fast when going from point A to point B. Did I just describe a greyhound or senior receiver Geronimo Allison? Well surprise, I described both. With (hopefully) more consistent quarterback and offensive line play, G-Mo should be able to have a strong final year.
"Mark, that is just another greyhound. You've run out of ideas already, haven't you?"
No! To both of those statements! That is a whippet, which is ... basically a smaller mixed version of a greyhound.
Okay, this is hard. Anyways, whippets are strange little dogs. They max out at 30 lbs, yet are capable of running as fast as 35 miles per hour. Doesn't seem to make much sense, right? Well that's because they were bred for a bizarre sport called rabbit coursing. If you're going to catch a rabbit in the open field, you need to be absurdly fast and able to turn on a dime.
You might think that having such a past would only make them acceptable pets if you have a massive yard, but much like Matt's taste when it comes to alcohol, you would be gravely wrong. Whippets adapt to whatever lifestyle you throw them into. Tiny, fast, and meant to hunt down other fast things? Capable of multiple roles? That's our Vanjo.
You're probably more familiar with the American bulldog's relative, the English bulldog. Unlike that unholy bastardization of a once useful breed, the American bulldog is still pretty great. It's not quite as big or fast as some of the other guardian breeds, but it's not exactly small or slow. Their strength and consistency are what make them so valuable when it comes to working cattle and hogs.
You can practically set your watch to Mason Monheim's production. None of his numbers jump off the page and wow you (though his 4 forced fumbles last year were nice). But there's something to be said about having a strong, consistent presence in the middle of the field.