Illinois Fighting Illini 2010 NCAA Football Preview

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Illinois Fighting Illini

Big Ten Conference


2009 Record: (3-9, 2-6)

2009 Bowl: none

Coach: Ron Zook (21-39 at Illinois, 44-53 overall)

Offensive Coordinator: Paul Petrino

Defensive Coordinator: Vic Koenning


Returning Leaders

Rushing: Mikel LeShoure, RB, 734 yards

Passing: Jacob Charest, QB, 382 yards

Receiving: Jarred Fayson, WR, 218 yards

Tackles: Ian Thomas, LB, 95

Sacks: Clay Nurse, DE, 5.5

Interceptions: Russell Ellington, LB, 1; Terry Hawthorne, CB, 1; Tavon Wilson, CB, 1


Other Key Returnees: OT Jeff Allen, LB Nate Bussey, RB Jason Ford, G Randall Hunt, DT Corey Liuget, WR Jack Ramsey, OT Hugh Thornton, LB Martez Wilson

Key Losses: G Jon Asamoah, WR Arrelious Benn, C Eric Block, DT Josh Brent, WR Chris Duvalt, S Garrett Edwards, S Donsay Hardeman, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, DE Doug Pilcher, QB Juice Williams


Something needed to be done for Illinois to get out of their two year funk following a Rose Bowl trip. Firing Coach Zook apparently was not the answer. Firing the rest of the coaching staff apparently made more sense. New coordinators Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning quickly put their mark on the team and the team has reacted well to major changes on both sides of the ball.



If you look hard enough, you can see some potential in this Illini squad. The obvious quality position is running back where Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford return. Both averaged over six yards per carry last year and should help keep the team among the best rushing teams in the Big Ten. This was a group that ranked 17th in the nation in rushing offense last year. Some of that was due to the now departed quarterback Juice Williams, but redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase is a dual-threat quarterback too and should be able to scramble just as effectively as Williams did in 2009. The problem with the rushing attack is the absence of guard Jon Asamoah and center Eric Block. The line should be alright in time, but new center Graham Pocic will have a lot of pressure on him to help out his young quarterback and keep the ground game moving with the help of tackles Jeff Allen and Hugh Thornton.



Scheelhaase separated himself from the pack during the spring and was eventually named the starter. But he is still a freshman and has to live without receivers Arrelious Benn and Chris Duvalt. Jarred Fayson and Jack Ramsey are the experienced receiving options and they both caught just 16 passes last year. An intriguing option is A.J. Jenkins. The junior had a disappointing sophomore campaign, but could turn into a great option for Scheelhaase. Even as bad as Williams played at times last season, it was really the defense that lost games. They only created 16 turnovers in 12 games. Koenning hopes to change that with his eight-man front that promises to mix things up whenever possible. However, the Illini only have so many players to work with and the most important two could be corners Terry Hawthorne and Tavon Wilson.


The Bottom Line:

The defense does have some decent players to build around. Defensive tackle Corey Liguet and end Clay Nurse had some good outings last season and linebacker Martez Wilson will be the star of the linebackers. Fellow linebacker Ian Thomas led the team in tackles in 2009 and the experience in the middle of the defense will certainly help a team that ranked last in the Big Ten in total defense last year. More important than giving up yards is the turnover situation. Illinois simply has to create more turnovers. And it would be helpful if Scheelhaase can keep his turnovers down as well. If the Illini have a positive turnover ratio, they will win more than three games this year even with a less experienced squad.


2009 Team Stats:

Rushing Offense: 200.42 (17th in nation, 2nd in conference)

Passing Offense: 193.08 (87, 10)

Total Offense: 393.50 (47, 5)

Scoring Offense: 24.17 (81, 8)

Rushing Defense: 154.42 (76, 8)

Pass Defense: 248.83 (100, 10)

Total Defense: 403.25 (91, 11)

Scoring Defense: 30.17 (96, 11)

Turnover Margin: -.33 (83, 8)

Sacks: 1.58 (89, 11)

Sacks Allowed: 2.42 (90, 9)