Injury to Williams Gives Ballew a Chance

The Fighting Illini has quality depth along the defensive line. But some experience and leadership was lost when tackle Sirod Williams succummed to knee surgery. One of the youngsters competing for Sirod's open spot is Daryle Ballew, who keeps improving day by day.

Ballew was redshirted last year as a freshman, giving him four full years of eligibility. The product of Withrow High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, is sad for Sirod's misfortune but sees opportunity knocking for him.

"We've just got to step up. It's a big opportunity for me. I just have to step up to the challenge and make plays."

Daryle is an intelligent but soft-spoken young man who prefers to let his game do his talking. He is considered one of the hardest workers on the d-line and seems to enjoy it.

"I've gotta like it to see the field."

Ballew is not as athletic as some of his teammates, but he keeps finding ways to make tackles and help the team.

"I come out every day to prove myself. There's always gonna be someone ahead of you. You've just got to keep working hard every day. Eventually, you get to do what you've got to do make plays."

Daryle is listed at 6'-1", and 313 pounds, similar to last season. But his body has been transformed after a year in Strength Coach Lou Hernandez' rigorous program. The extra fat in his belly is now muscle in his upper body.

"I lost some weight during the winter and put on some muscle, got some strength. I haven't maxed out on the bench press lately, but I'm up there in the mid 300's."

Just like his classmates, Ballew didn't want to redshirt last year. Now that he has that year behind him, he can see things more objectively.

"It was tough when it first happened. Once the season went along, I understood that you've got your time and place, and you've just got to wait your turn.

"I feel good. Four years to try to make it to the next level. That's a good opportunity. Most people don't get that."

Plus, he readily admits he learned a great deal while waiting his turn.

"Absolutely. Last year, I didn't really know any of the defense. Now that I know the defense, I can go out there and try to make something happen instead of worrying about being wrong or not running to the football, not hustling."

Daryle didn't play in the Rose Bowl, but he benefitted from the experience. It makes him hungry for a repeat.

"Now that I'm playing, I want to get back there. I want to get on the field to show what I can do."

All defensive linemen enjoy sacking quarterbacks and making tackles. But Ballew is probably not alone in liking the snap-by-snap battles against opposing offensive linemen.

"Yep, that's my favorite part of it."

Daryle Ballew is not yet a household name, and he may continue to be overshadowed by some of his teammates. But watch for big #98 when he is in the game. He battles every down and finds a way to get the job done.

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