Illini Lose Starting Tackle Williams for Year

The Fighting Illini faced their first real adversity of fall camp when players learned Wednesday starting defensive tackle Sirod Williams has been lost for the season with a knee injury. Williams will have surgery and gain a redshirt year. Meanwhile, the team had another tough day of two-a-days, including a spirited, full contact goal line workout.

Coach Ron Zook was saddened by the news about Sirod but found a silver lining as well.

"There's a guy that came in with our first class, and he was now in his fourth year and starting," Zook said. "The good thing is we get it done. Usually, it's about a year injury. So he'll be back and make us that much stronger next year. I feel bad for Sirod. You don't want to lose anybody, but I don't feel bad having him back next year either."

Sirod will be replaced in the lineup by sophomore Josh Brent. Sirod's Camp Rantoul roommate will miss Sirod.

"A fifth-year senior on that line, he's been around the program long enough, and he knows how to set the tone and get everybody where they're supposed to be. He leads by example as well. If there is an upside, he will be back next year."

With the promotion comes more responsibility for Brent.

"We basically considered all three of us as starters, with more than likely Sirod and Dave Lindquist the starters," Brent said. "Now with Sirod down, I'm starting. I'll have to definitely step it up and take that role as a leader."

Second string tackles at this time are redshirt freshman Daryle Ballew and true freshman Corey Liuget. Reggie Ellis is another freshman vying for playing time, and so is upperclassman Anterio Jackson. Several d-ends have taken turns inside on passing situations, including Antonio James, Will Davis, and Doug Pilcher. There is still talent available, but some youngsters will need to step up.

While the defensive backfield dominated in 7 on 7 action yesterday and again Wednesday morning, the offense reasserted itself in a major way during the evening. Quarterback Juice Williams was simply on fire during three 7 on 7 segments.

Juice completed his first 11 passes. His 12th pass fell incomplete as Miami Thomas blanketed Chris James on a long bomb. But the pass was there. Juice then completed six more passes before Chris James dropped his next one. It wasn't until his 21st pass that he actually misfired on the toss, a slight overthrow where Greg McClendon had the ball fall off his outstretched fingertips.

Arrelious Benn was Juice's favorite target, grabbing eight aerials. But Williams also spread the ball around to James, Chris Duvalt, Alex Reavy, Daniel Dufrene and Michael Hoomanawanui. James had a couple good runs up the middle after catching slant passes.

Eddie McGee and Jacob Charest were also accurate with their passes. McGee completed 6 of 8, and Charest was a perfect 6 for 6. Freshman Cordale Scott made an outstanding one-handed catch of a Charest toss, although the coaches reminded him to use two hands. And rookie tight end Hubie Graham made an excellent diving grab of a low Charest pass.

In addition, another freshman was heard from. Fred Sykes is a shy, unassuming young man who doesn't draw attention to himself. But he is fluid and has good receiving ability. Fred made two straight grabs from McGee and then just missed on a great one hand effort in the back corner of the end zone.

There was a great deal of situational running plays in the evening as well. Third and one, third and two, and fourth and one. Illini coaches tested freshmen running backs Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure in those spots, and each asserted themselves. Ford powered through the first defense for several tough first downs. And LeShoure also showed power, breaking one outside run down the sideline.

A goal line stand ended the evening, and the defense fired up and finally stopped the offense on several scoring attempts. Ian Thomas stopped LeShoure cold on one effort. Justin Staples and Bo Flowers did likewise on another. And Brit Miller and Rodney Pittman diagnosed a Juice option perfectly.

"Tonight was good," stated Zook afterward. "It was a very spirited end, which is what we wanted to do. Anytime you go live like that, I hold my breath. But they got after it. We put the defense in a tough situation, 3rd and 1 and 4th and one. It was tough, and the offense did what they were supposed to do. The toughness and being able to run the ball was good."

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