Zook Q&A: Time to Play

The voice on the other end of the phone this afternoon was upbeat, excited, exhausted ... and ready. "It's one week away," Ron Zook said when I answered the phone. "Can you believe it? One week?" And with that enthusiasm in place, the Illinois coach answered questions about camp, his players, his team and the upcoming season in this exclusive Insideillini.com Q@A.

Insideillini.com: Was it a good camp, overall?

Zook: Great camp. Tough camp, but a good camp. They were pretty drained there, so it's good we got back to Champaign. But it was a good, good camp. Got an awful lot done."

Insideillini.com: How does the stadium look?

Zook: Frank, wait 'til you see this place. Just wait 'til you see it. It's absolutely beautiful. The new turf is bright, perfect, looks great. The renovation, the boxes, all of it. Our players are excited, they were excited just seeing it.

Insideillini.com: But your first game isn't there and isn't going to be easy.

Zook: You're right about that. Missouri is very good -- very deserving of where they are ranked. Our guys know that.

Insideillini.com: What about your team? How much progress have you made? Can you tell?

Zook: I think we can. I was telling Locks today -- this is by far the best we've been in terms of everyone knowing what to do, knowing their assignments, their reads, what to do. It's the best it's been since I've been a head coach.

Like he said, we have an older team now. Still don't have many seniors, but a lot of guys who have been here doing this with us for awhile now. You can really see that.

Insideillini.com: The injury front -- you've had some guys get hurt. Where do you stand.

Zook: I really think other than Sirod, everyone will play. And Cumberland, we have to hold him out. But I'll tell you what, Jeff is going to be ready sooner than anyone thought. Not this week, obviously, but soon. He's done great. He is a guy that wants to play.

But overall, from an injury standpoint, we're in good shape. To be just coming off a tough camp, very good shape.

Insideillini.com: You still have some newness at receiver because of that. Concerned about that?

Zook: The good thing there is our veterans got a lot of reps and the young guys, now that they've got their legs back, they should help. We're fine at receiver.

Insideillini.com: And Juice apparently had a great camp.

Zook: Totally different guy. It's his team and he knows that. He acts like that. He works hard. Really hard. And the other guys see it. He knows where to go with the ball now, that is what is so different. You're more accurate when you know where to throw it. We're seeing that for sure."

Insideillini.com: Got a kicker?

Zook: They're all still in it. Got some talented guys -- just need one to emerge from the pack. Dimke, Eller have really strong legs. Talented guys. And Brandabur has battled, too. All three are in it. We'll decide that this week.

Insideillini.com: So, what now? Restful weekend. Calm before the storm?

Zook: (Laughs). I need some rest. But, no, we're ready. We really are. We're excited. Let's go play.

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