Illini Notes: Bellamy Could Start After All

As we get closer and closer to kicking off the 2007 season, every day is a good day for updates – tidbits here and there about the trip to St. Louis and a much publicized neutral site matchup with Missouri. With that, a few nuggets as Illinois begins game week workouts.

Don't be surprised if Travon Bellamy winds up starting at cornerback after all. Dere Hicks and Chris Duvalt do some good things, then some bad things. More good things, more bad things. Both have great upside, but Bellamy, when healthy, is the steadiest and most physical of the three. And his shoulder has been better lately than in a long while.

Right now, Hicks is listed as the starter. But don't count your chickens...

* Freshman running back Troy Pollard will dress, but may not play. With Rashard Mendenhall and Daniel Dufrene ahead of him, it makes sense to try and redshirt Pollard if possible. The presence of Walter Mendenhall as the third back, a guy that is not flashy but more than serviceable, makes that possible.

Still, Pollard will dress for every game because coaches have to get him ready in the event that any of the first three get hurt. Then he will have to play.

Coaches have said the same thing all along about him – he may have the best upside of all of them, but he just needs to develop his body.

* DeAngelo McCray may not dress. He really wants to play and they continue to believe he is going to be a big time player, but they are concerned that his knee has not completely healed. If there is any concern about that at all, they will hold him out this year.

You don't mess around with knees, particularly with a guy that has this kind of size, athleticism and talent. It is tough on "Big D", who really wants to play. But he understands they have to be smart with him.

* The only true freshman really ready to play is Arrelious Benn. A major reason for that is because he participated in the spring. He, of course, is a big time talent and will be a starter and one of the Illini's most important players.

Martez Wilson is still a bit confused, but he is so athletic, so big and fast and plays so hard they are going to let him get in there, play in space and just fly around. He will make a difference on special teams, as well as other areas.

Josh Brent, although he hasn't done much since he got nicked in practice, is ready to play and will be an important sub on the defensive front.

But for the most part, you won't see a whole lot of the true freshmen.

I continue to hear about the tremendous fall Jacob Willis has had. Was told he almost could have been considered a fourth starter, just marginally behind Benn, Hudson and Morgan. The main thing is those three guys are all pretty fast and Willis and Chris James are a step behind. With CJ out, look for Willis to get plenty of reps as the fourth guy. Incredibly smooth rout runner, good hands, tough over the middle. They really like him.

Keep an eye on No. 5. Might have had even a better camp than they expected. If he holds it high and tight, no telling how many yards he may have by season's end.

Maybe the best thing that happened to Illinois during the off-season was the whole Tim Brewster to Minnesota, takes his son Clint with him, Phil Haig sees the writing on the wall, decommits and calls Illinois thing. Zook told me today Phil is going to be special. You could hear in Zook's voice how he means it.

"Just has a knack about him," Zook said. "The really good quarterbacks have a feel for the game. They know what to do. They feel it. They are gamers. He is like that. What a find he was."

And to think, he actually found them.

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