Spartan Nation 2009 Scouting Report: University of Illinois
Biggest Game: November 27, 2009 @ Cincinnati
Predicted record: 10-2 (6-2)
Projected Big Ten standing: 3rd
Returning Starters: 13; OFFENSE 8, DEFENSE 5 Lettermen returning: 46
Head Coach: Ron Zook 5th Season at Illinois Last Season: 5-7 Lifetime: 41-44
Top assistant: Mike Schultz OC
Number of Players on the All Spartan Nation Big Ten Team: One; WR Arrelious Benn
Analysis: The Illini are loaded with talent at every position. Ron Zook has his critics, but you canâ€™t criticize his ability to recruit. The Illini are set to make a big comeback after a disappointing 2008 campaign.
Zookâ€™s team will be led by Juice Williams who burst on the scene against MSU as a true freshman. Williams has never had his athleticism questioned, but his decision-making has been. He has matured greatly since the Spartan Nation last saw him.
The Illiniâ€™s talent level is amazing when you look at every position, and critics of Zookâ€™s coaching ability need only remember when the Illini went into Columbus in 2007 and beat the Buckeyes who were then rated #1 in the nation at home.
I think critics of Zook arenâ€™t fair. He was in a no-win situation at Florida when Spurrier left while the cupboard was bare. He stocked the cupboards, got fired and Urban Meyer won a national title with his guys. He is tireless as a recruiter, and whether or not you like him he is exactly like he comes off in interviews and in public.
Donâ€™t get me wrong, Zookâ€™s teams seem to be their own worst enemy with stupid mistakes, but at Florida and up to this year at Illinois he has always had young teams. This season will tell everyone the story about Zook. They are experienced, they wonâ€™t be relying on youth and we shall see exactly what kind of coach he is in favorable conditions.
Football games are won with good athletes and the Illini have them. We shall see if they have the good coaching that can handle expectations. I have always felt that circumstance has dictated some of Zookâ€™s critics, and I expect them to have a good season.
I contemplated making MSU their biggest game, but a loss there would not be disheartening. The Spartans will be a good football team. I called for the Cincinnati game on the road, because that game (which I predict them to win) is one that young Zook teams have lost in the past. If they can maneuver a good schedule and get a nice win on the road at Cincinnati they can have a special season.
2.Illinois State WIN
3.@ Ohio State LOSS
4.Penn State LOSS
5.Michigan State WIN
6.@ Indiana WIN
7.@ Purdue WIN
9.@ Minnesota WIN
11.@ Cincinnati WIN
12.Fresno State WIN