Pollard Ready to run to Daylight

The Fighting Illini football team is looking for someone to replace All-American Rashard Mendenhall at running back. Among the candidates is Troy Pollard, who showed glimpses of excellence last fall before enduring a season ending knee injury. Pollard is now healthy and eager to compete for playing time.

Knee surgery requires a long recovery period, but Troy feels his knee is back to 100% now.

"I'm doing pretty good. I've been training my knee, so I feel I'm pretty good right now."

Getting a chance to test the knee the last week of spring ball really helped him.

"Yes sir, it felt pretty good getting to move around with my teammates, so I really enjoyed that. I was just running out there to make sure I had confidence in my cuts, so I feel pretty confident."

Troy is an exciting runner with great vision and cutting ability when healthy. On the small side at 5'-9" and 180 pounds, the product of Andrew Jackson high school in Jacksonville, Florida, is difficult to hit due to his quick moves. He can provide an excellent change-of-pace for the power runners he must compete with for playing time. He feels some pressure in replacing Rashard, but he looks forward to the opportunity.

"I kind of feel pressure, but I kind of don't as well. I know guys around me can make plays too. With the combined running backs, I hope we can do what Rashard did. I don't mind sharing the position."

Pollard was given a redshirt year since he only played in the first three games last season. The wait has been long for him, but it gave him the chance to build his strength to withstand the pounding ball carriers must endure through a long season.

"Yes sir, I've put on a couple more pounds, more muscle now. Coach Lou got me big. I weigh 180 now. I weighed 175 last year. I missed it so much just watching the games, so I'm excited to be here this year."

Pollard appears to have let go of past memories and the fear of reinjury.

"I don't think about the injury. Coaches told me it was just a freak accident, so I don't think about it too much, I just go out there and play."

Most freshmen take awhile to learn the system and adjust to the college game. But Troy made an early contribution, averaging 6.4 yards per 23 carries before the injury. He picked up the offense with little problem.

"I picked it up kind of quick. I worked hard on my playbook, and Rashard helped me out last year, so I learned the plays pretty quick. I feel pretty comfortable about what we do on offense, so hopefully I will be able to do like I did in the Syracuse game."

Pollard has good hands for pass receptions, but he prefers running the ball. And despite his small frame, he is unafraid of pounding the ball inside.

"Running the ball is my favorite thing. I'm good at running outside, but I like to run inside because it's hard for the d-linemen to see me. I like to hide behind the offensive line."

Troy likes what he's seen so far of freshman running backs Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford. He feels their running style can compliment his.

"They're pretty big backs, I think they'll be power backs. I'm looking forward to them doing good things."

Fans may at times still miss the play of Rashard Mendenhall, but he will be missed for another reason as well.

"Last year, you could go to Rashard when you needed something off the field. That's one of the guys I'm gonna really miss."

Troy Pollard is fully recovered from his injury and ready to step up and help the Illini running game remain potent.

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