Coach Zook Offers Good News On Jason Ford

Winning football games is much easier on a head coach than losing. That includes talking with the media, who have far fewer questions and issues to raise in a post game teleconference. Zook provided an injury update while also discussing the progress of his freshmen and the necessity of taking one game at a time as the Illini prepare for a Saturday encounter with Purdue.

Illinois coach Ron Zook is calmer on Sundays after a win than a loss. Especially when his team already has more wins with five games to play than it had all last season. Other than a few odds and ends, media have little to complain about.

Jason Ford was the most significant injury Saturday against Indiana. Zook was pleased to hear a relatively favorable prognosis.

"Jason Ford is better than we thought. Dr. (Robert) Gurtler is very cautiously optimistic. It's still not okay, but it's not as bad as we thought it could be. It's probably just an ankle sprain."

Still, it usually takes a few weeks for an ankle sprain to heal completely. Who will get more carries as a replacement behind starter Mikel Leshoure?

"Bud Golden's got to know what to do, which he does. Troy (Pollard) has been playing more and more anyway. Right now, I feel pretty good Jason will be fine."

Pollard had a couple excellent kickoff returns against Indiana.

"He's got a little knack, he really does."

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase played the whole second half Saturday after someone stepped on his throwing hand. Zook confirmed it is a minor problem.

"Scheelhaase is fine. It is a bruise on top of his hand."

Zook confirmed that receiver/quarterback Eddie McGee is finally healthy enough to provide a change of pace at the quarterback spot. He was in on a couple series Saturday, but he did not go in to replace Scheelhaase.

"I think you're always gonna have the 'D.C. package.' That's no different than having the Wildcat formation. Nathan didn't miss anything because of his hand."

The most serious injury Saturday was to Dr. Jeff Kyrouac, the internist assigned to the Illini football team. He was run over on a sideline hit and suffered a broken leg.

"They fixed him this morning. He's got a road to go. He'll heal, but it was kind of freaky when you watch it on tape."

The Illini used five freshmen and a redshirt freshman frequently on offense. While Zook didn't agree the offense must be limited because of this fact, he does see improvement as the season goes along.

"The more experience you have, the better you're gonna be. You're not thinking. They're gonna continue to get better. I thought Ryan Lankford made a couple big plays in that last drive. As those guys get confidence, and good things happen to them, I think they'll get better and better."

Zook was asked the difference between this year and last.

"I think the kids are playing better. They realize their role, and what they want to do is be good at their role. And obviously they've bought into it. I don't know that we're coaching it any different or any harder. It's clicking now."

Illinois's three losses are to teams that are ranked 5th, 7th, and 10th in the latest AP poll, but Zook doesn't take any consolation in that. All he cares about is taking one game at a time and worrying about the results at the end of the season.

"They've just got to continue to do the things they've been doing. Trying to do everything the coaches are telling them to do. Prepare and practice the way we've practiced. We have five one-games now. Right now, it's a one game season. All we can control is the next game. That's all we're worried about right now."

Purdue was ambushed by Ohio State in Columbus last weekend, but Zook knows better than to take them lightly.

"It doesn't matter what they've done. They'll come in here to win the game. We've got to make sure that we're ready to win the game."

Illini Inquirer Top Stories