AKEEM SPENCE

Defensive Tackle/Nose Guard

University of Illinois Fighting Illini

#94

6:01.1-307

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Fort Walton Beach High School

 

OVERVIEW

The daunting task of a nose tackle (guard) is to occupy multiple blockers, plug the inside rushing lanes and generally allow players surrounding him to “look good” when they are freed up to make the big plays. Based on recent Fighting Illini draft selections, perhaps it would be advisable for an Illinois defender to request that they line up alongside Spence.

 

While the fourth-year junior had been a disruptive force in the middle of the field, starting all 38 games he appeared in for the Illini, Spence teamed inside with Corey Liuget in 2010, as that defensive tackle went from a “draft afterthought” prior to his senior season to becoming a coveted first round draft selection by the San Diego Chargers.

 

Liuget had managed only 62 tackles, four sacks, thirteen stops behind the line of scrimmage with three pressures during three seasons at Illinois before Spence’s arrival. Playing together in 2010, the strong-side defensive tackle surpassed his career totals in just one campaign, collecting 63 tackles that included 4.5 sacks, 12.5 stops-for-loss and ten pressures.

 

Opponents averaged 4.86 yards per rushing attempt vs. Liuget during his career before Spence became his “running mate.” With #94 by his side, Liuget limited ball carriers to 49 yards on 62 running plays in 2010 (0.79 ypc). Spence? The longest gain by a ball carrier vs. the red-shirt freshman was eight yards during the 2010 season, as he posted 45 plays vs. the run, holding the opposition to 71 yards (1.58 ypc).

 

That season, Spence registered twelve third-down stops and another on fourth-down. Two of his eleven quarterback pressures caused interceptions, with both leading to Illini touch-down drives. Another of his hurries resulted in a sack and a turnover, when the pressured quarterback fumbled the ball when tackled behind the line of scrimmage. He also made eleven of his tackles inside the red zone, keeping the opposition from scoring with five of those hits coming on goal-line snaps.

 

In 2011, Spence’s dominance in the trenches turned first-year starter, Whitney Mercilus into an All-American, as the weak-side defensive end converted his banner junior year into being a first round selection in the 2012 draft by the Houston Texans. With Spence “taking out the trash” due to constant double-teaming from the opposition’s left guard and tackle, Mercilus proceeded to record sixteen sacks and caused nine fumbles.

 

Spence recorded 69 tackles during that 2011 campaign, assisting on three sacks with nine stops for losses. He took down ball carriers at the line of scrimmage for no gain on fourteen of the 68 running plays he was involved in. Those runners generated only 63 yards vs. the nose tackle (0.93 ypc), with their longest carry gaining just six yards.

 

The nose guard also made a total of 20 third-down stops, two more on fourth down and registered ten quarter-back pressures, including two that caused interceptions. Only one of twelve passes thrown into his area was completed (8 yards), as he delivered twelve of his tackles inside the red zone, including three on goal-line stands.

 

 

With the Illini defense stripped of most of their starters due to graduation, it was Spence’s task to mentor the younger Illinois players in 2012. The team struggled to adjust to the new defensive scheme, as Illinois changed coaches prior to the nose tackle’s junior season, but he maintained his dominance in the trenches while trying to “right the ship” with so many first-year starters on the defensive side of the ball.

 

In what would turn out to be his final college campaign, as Spence would declare for the draft after the season, he registered a career-best 72 tackles (32 solos) with a sack and seven stops behind the line of scrimmage. He posted 74 plays vs. a running game that managed just 100 yards vs. the red-shirt junior (1.35 ypc).

 

Twenty-nine of his tackles came inside the red zone, with nine stopping potential touch-downs on goal-line stands. One of his five quarterback pressures caused an interception that the Illini returned for a touchdown and he also caused a fumble that led to another Illinois scoring drive. In addition to taking down runners for a loss on seven snaps, he also prevented runners from gaining any yardage on eleven plays he made at the line of scrimmage.

 

Prior to his arrival on the University of Illinois campus in 2009, Spence earned three-star prospect status from Rivals.com after his senior season at Fort Walton Beach High School. ESPN rated him the 34th-best defensive tackle in the nation, as the Florida State All-Star Game participant recorded 80 tackles with five sacks, en route to receiving Class 4A All-District II accolades in 2008. That year, he helped the team compile a 10-2 record and capture the district championship.

 

Spence first lettered in football for Vikings head coach Mike Owens in 2006. The defensive tackle posted 42 tackles with three sacks, but the team struggled to a 3-7 record. The following season, he garnered All-District recognition, leading the Vikings to a 7-3 mark, as he delivered 67 tackles with two sacks and sixteen stops behind the line of scrimmage.

In addition to his success on the gridiron, he also lettered in track, performing in the discus and shot put.

 

Former Illini head coach Ron Zook had very good success recruiting in his “old stomping grounds,” as the ex-Florida Gators mentor entice Spence to choose the University of Illinois over scholarship offers from Iowa State, Syracuse, North Carolina State and South Florida. The then 280-pound defensive tackle signed his national letter of intent to join the Illini on January 5th, 1009, despite not making his first visit to the campus until two weeks later. He would spend the 2009 season performing on the scout team.

 

Spence would then establish himself as team’s most vital performer on the defensive line, going on to start his next thirty contests. A strong personality and respected leader, he was also the consummate team player, showing the versatility to do whatever the Illini coaching staff asked from him in the trenches.

 

Professional scouts recognize that Spence is a naturally strong defender with the raw power to move blockers where he wants, gaining leverage and fighting through the whistle. They are very impressed with his ability to use his quickness off the snap to attack and also display his physical nature to aggressively battle his way into the back-field. Those talent evaluators feel that Spence, much like Corey Liuget two years ago, should warrant first round consideration if he decides to declare early for the 2013 NFL Draft.

 

CAREER NOTES

Spence has started all 38 games he appeared in at Illinois, recording 186 tackles (65 solos) with 3.5 sacks for minus 19 yards, 17.5 stops for losses totaling 45 yards and 26 quarter-back pressures…Six of his hurries have caused interceptions, setting up two touchdown drives, while another hurry caused a fumble when the quarterback was sacked, leading to another Illini scoring march…Caused two fumbles and recovered two others…Has made 187 plays vs. the ground game, holding those ball carriers to 220 yards (1.18 ypc), no touchdowns and only six first downs, as no runner has gained more than eight yards on a rushing attempt vs. the nose tackle…Delivered 24 third-down stops, five more on fourth-down and posted 52 tackles inside the red zone, including 17 on goal-line snaps vs. the rushing attack, in addition to taking down ball carriers at the line of scrimmage for no gain on 28 attempts…While defensive linemen do not get much opportunities in pass coverage, only two of 37 tosses targeted into his area have been completed (5.41%)…Nineteen of his 26 quarterback pressures came on third-down passing plays.

 

2012 SEASON

A member of the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy watch lists, Spence was named to The NFL Draft Report’s All-American Super Sleeper Team and was a second-team All-Big Ten Conference choice by Phil Steele’s College Football magazine…Started all twelve games at nose tackle (weak-side), as he recorded a career-high 72 tackles (32 solos) with a 9-yard sack, seven stops for losses of 19 yards, five QB pressures and a forced fumble…

Made 74 plays vs. the ground game, limiting those ball carriers to a total of 100 yards (1.35 ypc), as he stopped runners for no gain at the line of scrimmage eleven times, posting seven third-down hits and three more on fourth-down snaps vs. the ground attack…29 of his tackles came inside the red zone, with nine stopping potential touchdowns on goal-line stands…One of his five quarterback pressures caused an interception that the Illini returned for a touchdown and he also caused a fumble that led to another Illinois scoring drive…Had thirteen passes targeted into his area, but the opposition failed to complete any of those throws…With the Illini offense struggling in the season opener vs. Western Michigan, the defense played tough, as Spence led a spirited unit that held the pass-heavy Broncos to 259 yards in total, including minus-six yards on the ground. The nose tackle was credited with only three tackles, but he assisted on a sack and had a pressure that caused an interception, leading to a touchdown in a 24-7 victory…Spence made two solo tackles with a pressure and also caused a fumble vs. Arizona State…Illinois held the Charleston Southern Buccaneers to 125 yards in total offense, as Spence assisted on a stop behind the line of scrimmage and recorded a pressure…Louisiana Tech turned six Illinois turnovers and four touchdown passes from quarterback Colby Cameron into a

52-24 road upset of the Illini, but Spence came up with seven tackles while delivering a pair of pressures…Followed with nine tackles, including one for a loss, as five of his hits came inside the red zone vs. Penn State…Added five tackles in each of his next three games – vs. Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana…assisted on a sack and posted three of his six tackles near the goal line vs. Ohio State…Closed out the season with 29 total tackles in his last three games, registering nine hits with two pressures vs. Minnesota and had another nine tackles (5 solos), twice taking down runners for no gain vs. Purdue…Closed out his career with his finest game, recording eleven tackles (7 solos) with two stops behind the line of scrimmage, making three third-down hits and two more on fourth-down snaps vs. Northwestern.

 

2011 SEASON

Spence was selected All-Big Ten Conference first-team by The NFL Draft Report…Started all thirteen games at weak-side defensive tackle (nose guard), ranking fourth on the team with a career-best 69 tackles (18 solos)…Had 1.5 sacks for minus 8 yards, 5.5 stops for losses totaling 16 yards and ten quarterback pressures, as two of his hurries caused interceptions and eight resulted on third-down plays…Also caused and recovered a fumble…On 68 running plays vs. Spence, the opposition managed to gain just 63 yards (0.93 ypc) with no touchdowns and just one first down…The longest gain by a ball carrier vs. the Illini defensive lineman was a 6-yard scamper vs. Michigan…Took down running backs at the line of scrimmage for no gain on fourteen of the 67 running plays he was involved in, as Spence made a total of 20 third-down stops (twelve on running plays) and two more on fourth-down snaps…Only one of twelve passes thrown into his area was completed (8 yards), as he delivered twelve of his tackles inside the red zone, including three on goal-line stands…Part of a unit that ranked seventh in the nation in total defense (286.15 ypg) and 15th in scoring defense (19.62 ppg)…His ability to handle double-team blocking paved the way for other Illini defenders to produce big plays in the backfield, as Illinois led the conference and placed fourth nationally in tackles-for-loss (7.92 per game) and sixth in sacks registered (3.15 pg)…After the season, Spence was the recipient of the Northwest Florida All Sports Association Collegiate Award.

 

2010 SEASON

Spence started all thirteen games at (weak-side) nose tackle, earning Freshman All-American first-team honors from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), Phil Steele and Rivals.com, in addition to garnering second-team accolades from College Football News…Shared the Illini’s Most Improved Award with Jarred Fayson…Recorded 45 tackles (15 solos) with a 2-yard sack, five stops for losses of ten yards and eleven quarter-back pressures, as three of his hurries led to turnovers (two interceptions and one forced fumble)…Also recovered a fumble…Posted 45 plays vs. the run, holding the opposition to 71 yards (1.58 ypc), no touchdowns and three first downs, as the longest gain by a ball carrier vs. the red-shirt freshman was eight yards…Registered a total of twelve third-down stops (four vs. the run) and another on fourth-down…Made eleven of his tackles inside the red zone, keeping the opposition from scoring with five of those hits coming on goal-line snaps, in addition to taking down runners at the line of scrimmage for no gain three times…On twelve passes targeted into his area, the opposition completed just one toss (8.33%) for three yards, an average of 0.25 yards per attempt.

 

2009 SEASON

Red-shirted as a freshman…Was a member of the Illini scout team.

 

INJURY REPORT

No major injuries reported and no game time lost during his career.

 

AGILITY TESTS

5.15 in the 40-yard dash…1.82 10-yard dash…2.93 20-yard dash…4.72 20-yard shuttle…

7.82 three-cone drill…30-inch vertical jump…8’9” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 37 times…33 ½-inch arm length…10-inch hands…77-inch wingspan.

 

HIGH SCHOOL

Spence lettered three times in football for Vikings head coach Mike Owens at Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) High School…The defensive tackle posted 42 tackles with three sacks, but the team struggled to a 3-7 record during his sophomore season…He made three tackles in his first high school game, vs. Pace, adding eleven tackles (8 solos) with two stops for losses vs. East Gadsden in 2006, as he also produced a sack among his eight hits vs. Tate, followed by a seven-tackle effort with two behind the line of scrimmage in the Satsuma contests. He also recovered a fumble while making seven tackles (5 solos) vs. Navarre, in addition to causing a fumble that he recovered to go with nine tackles vs. Niceville. He collected ten tackles that included a 3-yard sack vs. Crestview and had a sack for a 10-yard loss while registering seven tackles with a crucial pressure that caused an interception vs. Choctawhatchee…In 2007, the All-District II defensive tackles recorded 67 tackles with two sacks and sixteen stops behind the line of scrimmage while leading the Vikings to a 7-3 record. Both of his pressures in the season opener vs. Milton led to turnovers, as he produced six tackles with four more pressures in the Baylor High clash. He caused a fumble, deflected a pass and three of his five tackles stopped scoring drives vs. Gulf Breeze, as he went on to post eleven tackles (8 solos) with a sack the next week vs. Navarre. Spence added eight tackles (7 solos) and a forced fumble vs. Choctawhatchee and had one pressure while coming up with nine hits (7 solos) vs. Niceville in 2008…As a senior, he recorded 80 tackles with five sacks, en route to receiving Class 4A All-District II accolades in 2008. That year, he helped the team compile a 10-2 record and capture the district championship, earning an invitation to the Florida State All-Star Game…Spence received a three-star prospect ranking from Rivals.com after his senior season, as ESPN rated him the 34th-best defensive tackle in the nation.

 

PERSONAL

Spence is a Communications major who is scheduled to graduate in December, 2012…The son of Karen and Floyd Spence was born on 11/29/91…Resides in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

 

PLAYER STATISTICS

DEFENSIVE STATISTICS
STATS GP GS TK SO AS FR FC INT TFL PBU SACK PRES
2010 13 13 045 015 030  01  00 0-00  05.0-10   00   1.0-02    11
2011 13 13 069 018 051  01  01 0-00  05.5-16   00   1.5-08    10
2012 12 12 072 032 040  00  01 0-00  07.0-19   00   1.0-09    05
TOTAL 38 38 186 065 121  02  02 0-00  17.5-45   00   3.5-19    26

 

SPENCE GAME BY GAME LOG

2012 Season

Date

Opponent

Score

Played

Tackles

Sacks

FC

Pres

Ast

Solo

Asst
Loss

Solo
Loss

Loss
Yds

Ast

Solo

Yards

Western Mich. 09/01/12 Western Mich. 24-7

Yes

1

2

1

0

5

1

0

5

0

0

Arizona St. 09/08/12 at Arizona St. 14-45

Yes

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

Charleston So. 09/15/12 Charleston So. 44-0

Yes

1

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

Louisiana Tech 09/22/12 Louisiana Tech 24-52

Yes

5

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Penn St. 09/29/12 Penn St. 7-35

Yes

6

3

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Wisconsin 10/06/12 at Wisconsin 14-31

Yes

4

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Michigan 10/13/12 at Michigan 0-45

Yes

1

4

0

1

4

0

0

0

0

0

Indiana 10/27/12 Indiana 17-31

Yes

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Ohio St. 11/03/12 at Ohio St. 22-52

Yes

4

2

1

0

4

1

0

4

0

0

Minnesota 11/10/12 Minnesota 3-17

Yes

5

4

1

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Purdue 11/17/12 Purdue 17-20

Yes

4

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Northwestern 11/24/12 at Northwestern 14-50

Yes

4

7

0

2

3

0

0

0

0

0

Season Totals

40

32

4

5

19

2

0

9

1

1

 

2011 Season

Date

Opponent

Score

Played

Tackles

Sacks

FC

Pres

Ast

Solo

Asst
Loss

Solo
Loss

Loss
Yds

Ast

Solo

Yards

Arkansas St. 09/03/11 Arkansas St. 33-15

Yes

2

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

South Dakota St. 09/10/11 South Dakota St. 56-3

Yes

2

1

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

2

Arizona St. 09/17/11 Arizona St. 17-14

Yes

3

1

1

0

3

1

0

3

0

1

Western Mich. 09/24/11 Western Mich. 23-20

Yes

2

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Northwestern 10/01/11 Northwestern 38-35

Yes

7

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Indiana 10/08/11 at Indiana 41-20

Yes

3

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Ohio St. 10/15/11 Ohio St. 7-17

Yes

5

0

2

0

5

1

0

3

0

0

Purdue 10/22/11 at Purdue 14-21

Yes

7

1

2

0

2

0

0

0

1

1

Penn St. 10/29/11 at Penn St. 7-10

Yes

5

1

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

1

Michigan 11/12/11 Michigan 14-31

Yes

6

3

1

0

2

0

0

0

0

1

Wisconsin 11/19/11 Wisconsin 17-28

Yes

4

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Minnesota 11/26/11 at Minnesota 7-27

Yes

3

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

UCLA 12/31/11 UCLA 20-14

Yes

2

0

1

0

2

1

0

2

0

0

Season Totals

51

18

7

2

16

3

0

8

1

10

 

 

2010 Season

Date

Opponent

Score

Played

Tackles

Sacks

FC

Pres

Ast

Solo

Asst
Loss

Solo
Loss

Loss
Yds

Ast

Solo

Yards

Missouri 09/04/10 Missouri 13-23

Yes

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Southern Ill. 09/11/10 Southern Ill. 35-3

Yes

0

2

0

1

2

0

1

2

0

2

Northern Ill. 09/18/10 Northern Ill. 28-22

Yes

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Ohio St. 10/02/10 Ohio St. 13-24

Yes

6

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

Penn St. 10/09/10 at Penn St. 33-13

Yes

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Michigan St. 10/16/10 at Michigan St. 6-26

Yes

3

0

2

0

2

0

0

0

0

2

Indiana 10/23/10 Indiana 43-13

Yes

2

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Purdue 10/30/10 Purdue 44-10

Yes

4

4

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

Michigan 11/06/10 at Michigan 65-67

Yes

2

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Minnesota 11/13/10 Minnesota 34-38

Yes

2

1

0

1

2

0

0

0

0

1

Northwestern 11/20/10 Northwestern 48-27

Yes

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

Fresno St. 12/03/10 at Fresno St. 23-25

Yes

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Baylor 12/29/10 Baylor 38-14

Yes

0

0

0

1

2

0

0

0

0

0

Season Totals

30

15

4

3

10

0

1

2

0

11

 

Data provided by Dave-Te Thomas, Publisher of the NFL Draft Reports for TonySoftli.com & Tony Softli Draft Board; Distributed by Scouting Services, Inc. © Copyright 2012/13 – All Rights Reserved; Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Scouting Services Inc. is strictly prohibited.