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Seth Perlman, Associated Press
In this photo taken Oct. 15, 2011, Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus (85) and linebacker Jonathan Brown (45) combine to sack Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller (5) during an NCAA college football game in Champaign, Ill. With 26 sacks through seven games, Illinois has already sacked opposing quarterbacks three more times than it did in all of 2010. Mercilus has 10 sacks, the best in the country.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — When Illinois recruited Whitney Mercilus, the coaches told the young defensive end the sky was the limit.

Mercilus is starting to prove them right and fellow junior Michael Buchanan isn't far behind.

Mercilus leads the nation with 10 sacks and Buchanan has five, helping the Illini put up 26 sacks through seven games. That is tops in the Big Ten and the fifth-best pass rush in the country.

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning says Buchanan could have four or five more sacks if he were more sound fundamentally.