Cumberland Out with Injured Foot

The Illini football team was short-handed another player as starting outside receiver Jeff Cumberland sat out practice with a possible stress fracture in his foot. Coach Zook is unsure what Cumberland's immediate future holds, but his absence has a definite impact on the receiver corps.

"Jeff Cumberland has a sore foot. He had a stress fracture and we kind of nursed him through last season, so we're holding him to see what we're gonna do there.

"We don't know whether we're gonna rest him or what we're gonna do. It could be a couple weeks, it could be three or four. I don't think you do anything right now when he's just noticing it. You don't push it."

Xavier Fulton continued to dress but participate only in individual drills while recovering from a knee strain incurred during the Rantoul High School scrimmage Monday. Other than Cumberland, Sirod Williams requiring surgery and some other minor bumps and bruises, the Illini are still fairly healthy.

"Xavier's gonna be fine. If we were playing a game, he would be practicing. Believe it or not, we've been lucky. This is the point of time in camp where you get stressed, you get a little fatigued. That's why we cut back a little bit with the individual work. It comes to a point where you've got to try to protect them."

The Illini have reached the halfway point of Camp Rantoul, and Coach Zook is acutely aware of how the drudgery of fall camp can take its toll mentally and physically on his athletes and staff. Fortunately, Zook empathizes with his men and modifies his approach to keep them fresh and involved.

"We've changed a lot of things from last year. I'm always thinking about how I would feel. Put yourself in their spot. I know they're tired, I know they're sore. Shoot, I'm tired, I'm sore. But it's important that we get this work done. It's not a lot of fun, and it's not a lot of fun for the coaches right now. Everybody's cranky, everybody's sleep deprived."

There was no tackling Wednesday. The team was a little sluggish, so they probably benefitted from just working on their plays and practicing techniques.

The fullbacks and running backs hit a heavy blocking sled. Most of them move it only a couple inches as they force up the padding on the sled. But fullback Rahkeem Smith displayed powerful legs by moving the sled nearly five yards.

There were a number of good plays in 11 on 11 situations. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui made an outstanding over-the-shoulder grab of a 20 yard pass down the middle. Freshman tight end Hubie Graham caught balls on two short flair patterns, one each from quarterbacks Juice Williams and Eddie McGee.

Arrelious Benn and Chris James continue to be popular with the quarterbacks. And running backs Daniel Dufrene and Mikel LeShoure had nice rips through the line before being touched.

Defensively, end Antonio James knifed through to block a McGee pass, and fellow end Clay Nurse did the same to Juice. Cornerback Vontae Davis and Nurse trapped Daniel Dufrene on the sideline for no gain on a sweep.

In red zone work, Juice hit Benn for 20 yards and a touchdown on his first play. On the next series, Dufrene ran for five yards before Juice found Benn for two more passes, the second one a touchdown. In a later series, Chris Duvalt almost made a leaping, acrobatic catch in the end zone with Dere Hicks draped all over him.

The Illini also did a two-minute drill, something they do daily near the end of practice. Among the highlights was Dufrene almost making a great catch of a Juice pass despite excellent coverage from freshman middle linebacker Russell Ellington. Williams also completed three other passes before receiver Alex Reavy put a score on the board.

McGee hit Will Judson in his turn, but his next pass was intercepted by junior college transfer safety Donsay Hardeman. Donsay is now the third safety behind Travon Bellamy and Bo Flowers and joins the defense when Bellamy takes over at nickel. Coach Zook complimented Hardeman and all the safeties after practice.

"Donsay has really made a push. I really like how he's progressing. Travon (Bellamy), Nate (Bussey), Garrett (Edwards), and Bo (Flowers) are all doing good things. They've got a lot of pressure on them because they know if they screw up there's another guy coming in there. That helps them get better."

This is the time of year when leaders are needed to help keep the players working hard. Fortunately, Coach Zook has been pleased with his upperclassmen in that regard.

"I feel the leadership coming out with the juniors and seniors. We've talked about it from the very beginning. These guys have to lead, and I can feel them taking over. That's what you want."

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