2018 NFL Draft

Big Ten's top returning DE Buchanan breaks jaw in fight

Big Ten's top returning DE Buchanan breaks jaw in fight

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
Fans of the University of Illinois knew their team could have trouble replacing the pass rush lost with defensive end Whitney Mercilus and his FBS-leading 16 sacks heading off to the NFL early.

The man charged with replacing Mercilus -- senior defensive end Michael Buchanan -- could have a hard time accomplishing this feat, considering that he's expected to miss at least a portion of summer workouts due to a broken jaw apparently suffered during a recent fight.

Buchanan, currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 37 overall rated prospect for the 2013 draft, earned Second Team Big Ten accolades a year ago with 7.5 sacks. That mark makes the 6-5, 240-pound Buchanan the leading returning pass rusher among conference defensive linemen. Though he's seen playing time since signing with the Illini as a highly regarded prep, Buchanan enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, starting 12 of 13 games and finishing with 64 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss to go along with his quarterback takedowns.

New Illinois coach Tim Beckman, who replaced interim coach Vic Koenning (who had replaced the fired Ron Zook), informed the media Wednesday that his senior pass rusher had returned home to his Chicago-area home but was expected to return to campus later in the week. According to this article from Bob Asmussen of The News Gazette, Buchanan had his wisdom teeth removed and his mouth wired shut as part of his recovery from the broken jaw. Though Beckman does not specify how Buchanan suffered the injury, Asmussen reports that the potential All-Big Ten candidate was injured in a fight, citing Illinois sports information director Kent Brown. Beckman said he'll continue to investigate the incident but seemed more concerned about his star defensive end's recovery than any concern about the incident, itself.

"It was just a mishap," Beckman said.

"[Buchanan will] get himself ready, and he'll get himself right,” Beckman said. “He's a little distraught by it. Of course, nobody wants to break their jaw.”

“My brother broke his jaw and continued to play football,” Beckman said. “It's just healing. You don't put him back on the field until he's ready.”

Ultimately pro scouts, of course, will want to know the details of the "mishap" that resulted in his broken jaw (and perhaps bruised ego) but in the long run, Buchanan's injury shouldn't have an impact on his pro potential.

Buchanan doesn't just have to worry about his recovery from the injury, however. With Mercilus now a member of the Houston Texans, Buchanan will be the focus of every opponent's blocking scheme. The loss of Koenning's hyper-aggressive scheme could also lead to fewer opportunities to create tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Nonetheless, if Buchanan can rebound from the missed time and demonstrate the same burst off the snap he showed in finishing fourth in the conference a year ago in sacks, his play should be able to handle all of the talking he'll need.

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