But unless the players are found innocent of charges of possession of stolen property and other crimes, the punishment of each could be severe and swift.
"I'm not in a position to talk about this specifically just yet," Zook said. "But I will tell you this -- we will not be a renegade program. That I will tell you. Not ever.
"We will carry ourselves with a certain level of dignity. We will act right and we will obey the law. Period. And if players choose to embarrass this institution they will not be part of this program."
Zook was clearly angry about the story and got more angry the more he talked about it. He has talked countless times about how much he respects the heritage of the University of Illinois and the honor it is to coach the school's football program. Similarly, he said, players should realize what an honor it is to have a scholarship there and to represent the school.
"We are not going to embarrass this place," Zook said. "There is too much good about this place to ever allow that to happen."
Zook emphasized again that he could not talk specifically about the Ellis and McPhearson situation. But he did say he had just had talked to the entire team at length Thursday afternoon about the importance of handling themselves appropriately in the off-season.
"That's the part that amazes me," Zook said. "We just talked about it. We talk about it all of the time. How important it is."
Champaign police say Ellis and McPhearson were charged Saturday morning following an accident at third and armory where police found stolen laptop computers, cash and credit cards in their vehicle.
Police believe those items were taken during several residential burglaries.
Both players are 20-years-old and both were scheduled to be junior wide receivers on the Illini football team. Neither is currently listed first team on the depth chart heading into spring practice.
The two players were released on bond Saturday, Ellis earlier in the day and McPhearson Saturday night. Illinois coaches have talked by phone with parents for both players.