Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Season Preview: Illinois

Last Season: After a promising 2-0 start last season, the Fighting Illini tanked and lost the rest. With an embarrassing 36-14 loss to Indiana and a horrible defense and offensive line, the Illini got pushed around in the Big Ten.

Outlook: Even with 18 returning starters and Oklahoma transfer Akim Millington at tackle, 6 wins will be a big feat. There’s hope with 9 returning starters on offense, a veteran QB in Brasic who had some impressive numbers considering the circumstances, and some decent talent at the skill positions. The schedule could help with early games against Eastern Illinois, Rutgers, and Syracuse: all must wins. Then, two games in the middle of the season against Indiana and Central Michigan could also provide some momentum before facing Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. If Illinois could win all the out of conference games and pull an upset they could, theoretically, pull a 6 win season but don’t hold your breath.

Ron Zook contingency plan?

Returning starters: 9
Key Losses:
C Duke Preston – Drafted 4th round

Key Returnees:
QB Tim Brasic (1979 yards, 11 TD, 420 rushing yards, 3 TD)
WR Kyle Hudson (469 yards, 1 TD)
WR Derrick McPhearson (89 yards, 1 TD)
WR DaJuan Warren (205 yds)
LG Martin O’Donnell
C Ryan McDonald
RG Matt Maddox

Returning starters: 9
Key Losses:
DB Kelvin Hayden – Drafted Round 2

Key Returnees:
DE Derek Walker (26 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL)
DT Chris Norwell (46 tackles, 3 sacks, 7.5 TFL)
DE Xavier Fulton (13 tackles, 2 TFL)
LB J Leman (67 tackles, 5.5 TFL)
LB Brit Miller (46 tackles, 1 sack, 4.5 TFL)
CB Sharriff Abdullah (27 tackles, 2 TFL)
CB Alan Ball (55 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 INT)
SS Kevin Mitchell (78 tackles, 4.5 TFL)

Game Outlook: Last year Penn State lost a last second heartbreaker to Michigan the week prior to facing the Fighting Illini and then traveled to Illinois with the question on everybody’s mind: how will PSU respond? It didn’t take long as Penn State scored 4 TD’s in the first quarter and 9 unanswered, rolling up 438 yards of offense. This year the Illini travel to Penn State, again following the Michigan game which is also at home and an 8:00 PM start. If PSU pulls a big emotional win over Michigan they could have a let down and be ripe for the upset for Illinois, but other then that, Penn State should win this game. Illinois should be improved, but it’s doubtful they will be on par with the majority of the Big Ten teams, yet. Ron Zook will need a couple more recruiting classes to be competitive in the conference.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Last year Illinois went winless in the Big Ten. This year they will beat Indiana.

To quote Forrest Gump: "That's all I got to say about that."