Player Spotlight: Ryan Lankford

Story posted September 27, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Breanna Jacobs

After a disappointing loss last week to Louisiana Tech, Illinois wide receiver Ryan Lankford is ready to start fresh against Penn State this weekend.

“It’s definitely a fresh start going into Big Ten play,” Lankford told reporters on Monday. “You always feel like it’s a clean slate.”

Lankford is looking to make a major offensive impact in what will be the Big Ten opener for both teams. The junior has worked hard for two seasons to earn the spot as the Illini’s number one receiver.

Lankford made his college debut in 2010 against Southern Illinois. That year, he played in 12 games, finishing with six receptions for 129 yards and one touchdown.

As a sophomore, Lankford played in all 13 games, starting five. He had 12 receptions for 108 yards.

Lankford was more than just a receiver during the 2011 season, however. He also saw time as a punter and as a punt returner. Lankford punted 19 times during the season and averaged 39.4 yards per kick. He also recorded 33 return yards on 19 attempts at punt returning. Lankford became the first Illini player to punt and return a punt in the same season since Bob Bess in 1969.

So far this season, Lankford has racked up 16 receptions for 243 yards, averaging a little over 15 yards per reception. Lankford also had four touchdowns so far on the season. Last week against Louisiana Tech, he had five receptions for 51 yards and one touchdown.

Although Lankford played a good game last week, the Illini lost 52-24. That game has led some to believe that the Illini offense is too scared to make plays down the field. Lankford, however, is not concerned about that going into this week.

“Week in and week out we just have the plays that are best for the [opposing] defense,” he said. “It’s not a matter of can we or can we not throw the ball down the field.”

Lankford knows it rests upon him to be able to make plays as he takes a leadership role on offense. While he is not concerned about whether he is the number one guy or not, he feels he has a responsibility to lead the Illini to success.

“I always put it upon myself that, when my number is called, I need to just make the play for myself,” Lankford told reporters. “Not as a matter of being the guy or not the guy just, when my number is called, making plays.”

After the surprising loss last weekend, Lankford knows the team has a lot to work on to get ready for Penn State and the Nittany Lions’ defense.

“This is just another week,” Lankford said. “We have to get ready for our next opponent, and that’s Penn State, so we have to work as hard as we can to be at our maximum potential for the Penn State game.”

Lankford is hoping to make a big impact against Penn State and he is confident that the Illini will be ready for Big Ten play when the Nittany Lions travel to Illinois on Saturday.

Breanna Jacobs is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact her, e-mail: byj5032@psu.edu.