Christmas Gifts for the Illini Football Team

After another fairly agonizing autumn spent watching Illini football, it is painfully obvious that the football squad is in need of some help. Although most of the Big Ten season was spent on the wrong side of the scoreboard, there were signs that the squad has some young talent on which to build its future. So, in the spirit of Christmas, these are the gifts we are hoping Santa brings Ron Zook and his Illini football squad.

To the quarterback position: A healthy Tim Brasic and some early playing time for Isiah "Juice" Williams. Although Juice possesses more raw talent than any QB in recent Illini history, developing into a star often takes overcoming some obstacles early in your career (see Kittner, Kurt). While fans might not have been overwhelmed by Brasic's results, he will be a Senior leading the team after his first year of regular playing time. Hopefully, Juice gets his feet wet.

To the wide receiver position: A healthy Derrick McPhearson and an influx of new talent. Aside from the Kyle Hudson exception, if I was part of last year's WR corp, I don't think I'd feel comfortable about how much time I'd be spending on the field. Too many times in recent years it has seemed that our WRs have notified opposing CB's of the route they will run, thus getting no separation. Clearly, Zook has made this position a priority, and will stock it with talent at the position not seen since the Mike White years. The potential rotation could include Hudson, McPhearson, Warren, Ellis, and new recruits Chris James, Marques Wilkins, Keven Hagans, Joe Morgan, and Keith Houston.

To the secondary: Well, it's always nice to give people gifts they can use and enjoy, however, for just about everyone who manned the Illini secondary this season, the gift might mean increased time on the sidelines. That gift might mean many newcomers starting at the position. One would have to figure that Zook's commitment from Justin Sanders means that he will be an immediate contributor. After watching video of potential recruits like Garrett Edwards, Vontae Davis, and Reshad Jones, all could have significant opportunities for playing time at a position where the incumbents failed to establish themselves.

To Ron Zook and his coaching staff: A happy February 1st, national signing day. As he struck gold last year with McPhearson (and the Ismail Abdunafi coup), Zook will once again look to solidify and/or attract incoming talent in the waning hours before signing day. The main targets: DT - Olufemi Ajiboye, DE – Chris Bradwell, OL – Ramone Johnson, CB – Vontae Davis, OL – Brandon Walker, ATH – Michael Crabtree, DT – Travis Timmons, DT – Moe Dampeer, S – Reshad Jones, among others. Who will be the "big fish" that Zook pulls the night before signing day this year?

To Illini opponents: Continued days of looking at the schedule and assuming a "W" the week they play Illinois. With the impending influx of Zook's recruits, it will not be long before the talent gap is narrowed. Even with the current talent, Illinois put up some competitive halves of football. Now, it's time to start sneaking up on opponents who might be taking us lightly. There would be nothing better to see a few Big Ten teams walking off the field with their heads down, not realizing what hit them. It will not be long before this is happening on a consistent basis.

And the rest…

To Memorial Stadium: Filled seats

To Pierre Thomas and Rashard Mendenhall: A few holes to run through

To any opposing RB or WR: Reduced YAC (yards after contact)

To sports reporters: a Big Ten Player of the Week that does not come from the team that played the Illini

To Brit Miller: a DL that can hold off blockers for long enough for him to wreak havoc on opposing RB's

To Chris Norwell: some recognition for being a stud on the D-Line

To Ron Zook: a little sleep over the holidays, because the next month will be a wild ride

To all Illini fans: Happy holidays and a great new year

See you in Pasadena

Adam and Ryan

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