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September 1, 2009
Illinois Insider: Offensive Preview
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The Illinois Fighting Illini have put up 76 points on Missouri in the last two seasons...but have yet to come up with a win. Is this the year the Illinois offense gets over the hump in a shootout? Jeff Johnson of OrangeandBlueNews.com previews the Illini offense.
Senior Juice Williams is in his fourth year as starting quarterback for the Illini. Last year he struggled when he had to throw the ball over 25 times to bring Illinois from behind to win. He is what he is, a run first QB and the offensive unit needs to establish that running game early to control the tempo, pace of the contest. Mike Schultz replaces Mike Locksley (now head coach at the University of New Mexico) as offensive coordinator. Schultz came to Champaign from TCU where his offense's set plenty of records. The big difference I see in Schultz is he is that 'run first' type of coordinator that probably fits Williams' style more than the pure spread passing attack did last year.
At running back, Illinois can play one of five guys. Senior Daniel Dufrene sprained an ankle last week in practice but is probable for the game. Sophomores Jason Ford, Mikel Leshoure and Troy Pollard will see time at the postion with Ford likely sharing the most carries with Dufrene. True freshman Justin Green also has been impressive during pre-season camp in the two-tight end, one-back sets Schultz so likes to run.
The strength of the Illini on offense is their receiving group with senior Jeff Cumberland, juniors Arrelious Benn, Jarred Fayson and sophomore A.J. Jenkins are the starters. The Illini also have All-Big Ten candidate/senior Michael Hoomanwanui back at tight end as a three-year starter. Illinois can go nine deep at receiver without a whole lot of drop off in talent.
Offensive line is the question mark? Sophomore Jeff Allen moved from right to left tackle last spring and has been solid. Senior Jon Asamoah is an all-Big Ten candidate at right guard and in his fourth year playing. Senior Eric Block played left guard last year because no one else was ready but moved back to his original position at center and has been impressive in pre-season camp. Junior Ryan Palmer is back to start at right tackle. He won the job coming out of camp last fall but got nicked and was replaced by Allen during in 2008. Junior Randall Hunt is the starter at left guard and got some playing experience last year but wasn't what I would call a 'trusted' reserve at that position. Allen, Block and Asamoah have been solid in camp while I would look for Mizzou to attack Palmer and Hunt early and often to test them with blitzes, loading up the box in front of those guys to see if they can perform against what looks like a good Mizzou defense.
Schultz loves the two tight-end, one-back sets and that helps out with the pass blocking, takes some pressure off the offensive line. Watch to see how much he uses it on Saturday, definetely a coach who finds what is working and sticks to it. For Illinois to win, they have to run the ball early and often, get out ahead in the game and control the tempo of the contest. If Illinois falls behind early, Juice Williams has to throw 25+ passes to beat Mizzou, it's going to be a rough afternoon in St. Louis for Zook's team.
Nobody will cover the 2009 season like PowerMizzou.com. We will have analysis, interviews, photos and video every week throughout the season. To get your free trial membership going today, just click right here.