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Versatile Illinois DE Michael Buchanan can also play outside linebacker

CHAMPAIGN IL - OCTOBER 02: Ohio State Buckeyes Illinois Fighting Illini Memorial Stadium October 2 2010 Champaign Illinois. Ohio State

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: of the Ohio State Buckeyes of the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Here’s a look at the more notable Illini draft picks in the last five years. Allen played at King, Martez Wilson played at Simeon, and Mendenhall attended Niles West.

Player/Position Team Overall pick/Year

Jeff Allen, OT Chiefs 44th, 2012

Arrelious Benn, WR Buccaneers 39th, 2010

Vontae Davis, CB Dolphins 25th, 2009

A.J. Jenkins, WR 49ers 30th, 2012

Mikel Leshoure, RB Lions 57th, 2011

Corey Liuget, DE Chargers 18th, 2011

Rashard Mendenhall, RB Steelers 23rd, 2008

Whitney Mercilus, OLB/DE Texans 26th, 2012

Martez Wilson, LB Saints 72nd, 2011

Tavon Wilson, S Patriots 48th, 2012

Updated: February 26, 2013 6:43AM

MOBILE, Ala. — A lightning-fast spin move around an offensive tackle and straight into the running back drew a loud “Ohhhhh” from the crowd — mainly consisting of NFL scouts, coaches, agents and media — at Ladd Peebles Stadium.

It was a move that’s expected from Michael Buchanan, a defensive end from Illinois.

Buchanan, a star at Homewood-Flossmoor, is the latest Illinois player to be considered first- or second-round material. Last year, the Illini saw defensive end Whitney Mercilus (26th overall), wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (30th), offensive tackle Jeff Allen (44th) and safety Tavon Wilson (48th) get drafted in the first two rounds.

Buchanan is one of the more intriguing defensive prospects taking part in the Senior Bowl this Saturday.

But is he a defensive end or an outside linebacker?

“I see myself as being able to do a lot of different things,” said Buchanan, who’s joined by Illinois offensive lineman Hugh Thornton at the Senior Bowl. “Yes, I was asked to play defensive end here. I think I can do that at the next level — put on some more weight and improve my run defense.

“[But] I also think I can play outside linebacker. I think I’m very versatile. I can do anything a team asks me to do.”

Teams have asked him about both positions. Buchanan said he has met with every team but two or three this week, including talking to the Bears “a few times.”

With some aging players, the Bears could definitely use help at defensive end and especially at linebacker, but many expect them to address their needs at offensive line first and foremost.

If moved to linebacker, Buchanan is considered a better fit for a 3-4 defense. Buchanan has been compared to Mercilus, who was drafted as an outside linebacker by the Texans.

Buchanan did say he idolizes and tries to emulate Von Miller (Broncos), Bruce Irvin (Seahawks), DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys) and Aldon Smith (49ers). Ware, Miller and Smith are pass-rushing linebackers with similar builds.

If he sticks to defensive end, Buchanan, who’s 6-5, 252 pounds, said he can “be very solid around 265.”

“Anything more would kind of be a stretch for my body frame,” he said. “[But] I don’t really have a preference. Whatever team decides to take a chance on me, I feel like I can fit anywhere.”

Scouts would like to see Buchanan turn all his natural gifts into consistency. Before his senior season at Illinois, Buchanan was considered a first-round pick, but he went from 71/2 sacks and 131/2 tackles for loss in his junior year to 41/2 and seven.

“That’s one thing I had to realize really quick,” said Buchanan, who has worked against highly rated Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher. “I can’t get away with some of the things I got away with in college.”

Buchanan considered entering the draft after his breakout junior season but returned and was part of an Illini team that went 2-10 under first-year coach Tim Beckman. But he has no regrets.

“I was very happy with coach Beckman and the new staff,” he said. “I believe all the other seniors were very happy. . . . I feel like there’s a lot of guys from that team who are going to be successful in the NFL.”

It looks like that starts with him.

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