Illinois 2011

Illinois 2010 Statistics

(Big Ten) The Fighting Illini play on artificial (FieldTurf) at Memorial Stadium (seats 62,870)

  • Ron Zook enters his 7th year as head coach and barely squeaked out a winning season last year (7-6) to have only his second winning season for Illinois. The highlight of his Illinois career thus far was getting to the Rose Bowl in 2007 (not playing in the actual Rose Bowl game itself because that was a miserable 17-49 struggle against USC).
  • Last year there they had to replace their four-year starting quarterback, Juice Williams, and passing numbers declined. But in his first year as a starter Nathan Scheelhaase had a better touchdown to interception ratio and passing completion percentage than his predecessor ever did.  It also helped that running back Mikel Leshoure came into his own and provided a huge distraction for defenses to focus on as he rushed for almost 1700 yards and scored 20 touchdowns (rushing & receiving).
  • Dealing with the loss of Running Back Mikel Leshoure (2nd

    Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase

    round NFL Draft pick).  Without the ground threat of Leshoure more pressure will be on Scheelhaase this year. Illinois’ success consistently relies on a strong running game.  But this year the running back position is in flux and both prospective starters, Jason Ford and Troy Pollard, have suffered from injuries and were held out of spring practice.  To help out the running game and succeed on offense, Scheelhaase really needs to establish more of a passing threat. Coaches have been pleased with the way he reads defenses, but he still needs improvement.

  • The expectation is that Illinois is on the right track after new coordinators on offense and defense took over in 2010. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino (brother of Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino) and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning are the keys to the Fighting Illini’s success and Ron Zook’s future.
  • Defense has some significant losses on the front seven (defensive line + linebackers).  Koenning said they need to “get back to ‘old school’—the way Mickey told Rockey.” (I must admit, Rocky movies are not my forte, but Mickey was Rocky’s trainer and apparently made him chase Chickens around because that’s how they used to train “old school”).  He also would like to see more leadership from the linebacker position.
  • Last year Defensive Tackle Akeem Spence benefited from the

    Defensive Tackle Akeem Spence

    presence of  2011 1st round NFL Draft pick Corey Liuget (as in “legit”) playing next to him at defensive end and will be expected to step up in 2011. Even with Liuget, Illinois struggled to put pressure on their opponents’ quarterbacks and their sack numbers were quite mediocre for the second straight year.  But with that said, the Fighting Illini took significant strides last year and improved considerably compared to their 2009 production.  It is important that they quickly find solutions to the personnel losses and continue on the right track.