21 Illinois In Champaign, it's the passing game that's now the toast of the town

August 13, 2000

The mere presence of freshman receivers Jamaal Clark and Ade
Adeyemo tells you all you need to know about the rebirth of
Illinois football. For most of the last decade, under coach and
defensive specialist Lou Tepper, the Illini took all the fun out
of offensive football, not only for their opponents but also for
themselves. Now, thanks to coach Ron Turner's wide-open passing
offense, the Illini are having fun again. Junior quarterback
Kurt Kittner threw for 2,702 yards and 24 touchdowns last
year--the sort of numbers that tend to attract high school
All-Americas like Clark, a 6'3", 185-pounder from St. Louis, and
Adeyemo, a 6'2", 185-pound Chicago native.

Clark and Adeyemo signed on despite Illinois's depth at receiver,
figuring there would be enough passes to go around. Last year
Kittner threw touchdown passes to 11 different players. The
closest the Illini come to a go-to guy is sophomore flanker
Brandon Lloyd, who stepped off a curb last month and broke his
leg, making the freshman duo that much more valuable.

Every coach who has tried to resurrect a program has prayed for
recruits like Clark and Adeyemo. Turner also inherited one in
fifth-year senior tackle Marques Sullivan. The Oak Park, Ill.,
native was wooed by Florida and Wisconsin, among others, before
settling on his home-state team. Sullivan started every game at
right tackle as a redshirt freshman in '97 (Illinois went 0-11)
and '98 (3-8). He was moved to left tackle last season and, like
the rest of the offense, blossomed. Last year Illinois was third
in the Big Ten in passing (233.8 yards per game) and second in
scoring (32.3 points). Ten starters from that unit are back,
including Kittner, who rebounded from a brutal freshman season
(44.4% completion rate, one TD, seven interceptions) with a
banner '99.

In order to challenge for the Big Ten title, the Illini will have
to find playmakers on defense. Junior strong safety Bobby Jackson
returns after missing last season with an ACL tear in his left
knee. He and junior free safety Muhammad Abdullah will be a
steadying influence for the talented but inexperienced cornerback
trio of Eugene Wilson, Trayvon Waller and Anthony Hurd. The
linebacking corps, once the strength of the program, is now the
weak link.

"It's going to be tough," says Kittner, "especially in the
league. Everyone, including ourselves, expects us to do


COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Kittner's breakout season in '99 brings raised hopes in 2000.

Fast Facts

1999 record: 8-4 (4-4, T6 in Big Ten)
Final ranking: No. 24 AP, No. 25 coaches' poll

Telling Number

Points scored by the Illini in '99, breaking the school record of
380, set in 1902.

The Book

An opposing team's coach sizes up The Fighting Illini

"They snuck up on people last year. Not this year....Kittner is
as good as anybody at throwing the three-step drop, and [running
back] Rocky Harvey is a bull. They don't have a big-play guy on
offense, but they do a good job of controlling the ball....They
don't have any defensive stars, but they pursue the ball very

Strength: 48th of 115

9 at San Diego State
30 at Minnesota

Oct. 14 IOWA
21 at Penn State
28 at Michigan State

18 at Northwestern