Ron Zook Responds To Media Inquiries

Illinois defeated Iowa, but they have three tough games to go. They will have to play well to earn enough victories for a bowl bid. Coach Ron Zook met with the media Sunday and discussed topics ranging from next opponent Western Michigan to Vontae Davis, Eddie McGee, Jason Ford, injuries, and a couple questionable officiating calls.

Following are highlights from the November 2, 2008 media teleconference:

***The mood of the team the day after beating Iowa: "I think they feel good about the way they played. I think they understand, at least the older guys, this is the way you have to practice and prepare to play that way."

***Ford Field: "It's a great venue. They're playing in a stadium where a lot of great NFL players play. It's a nice building, and I hope the players would appreciate that."

***Next opponent Western Michigan: "They've got a quarterback and receiver that are probably as good and remind me a lot of the two guys from Minnesota. They're averaging around 300 yards of offense throwing the ball. I haven't studied them an awful lot, but they have a really good secondary.

"This is a good football team. One of my friends Bill Miller, who used to be with us at Florida, was there last year. We talked in the offseason, and he thought they had a chance to be a really good team. They also beat Iowa last year."

***Why Vontae Davis didn't start: "Vontae can be a great player. As a coach, it's our job to get them to play to the best of their ability. If they don't want to play to the best of their ability, there's got to be ways to get that out of them. As John Wooden said, 'The bench is the best coach.'

"Vontae played pretty well yesterday. He had more plays than any other corner. We all want him to play the way he's capable. They all understand that the entire football program and the Illini Nation deserve players who will play to the best of their ability.

"Vontae gets graded a little tougher because he potentially can be an awfully good player. What may be acceptable to somebody else may not be acceptable to him. His level of play should be much higher than some other people."

***Eddie McGee at receiver: "After the Wisconsin game, he came into the locker room and was so passionate. He wants to win so bad, he's willing to do whatever he can do to help this football team. He wanted to be on the kickoff team and those type of things. Here's a guy who wants to play.

"As a coach, you always worry about, God forbid, what if something should happen to Juice. He's the guy. But we've got to play the guys who are gonna play with excitement and intensity. So I said to heck with it, let's get him in there and play. You can open up a whole new playbook with him in the game. If something happens to Juice or Eddie, then it wasn't a smart move. This is a risk business."

***One more win to be bowl eligible: "Six games doesn't guarantee you a bowl. You are bowl eligible, but last year Northwestern won six games and didn't get to go to a bowl. We still have three games to go, and the next win just makes us eligible, it doesn't guarantee us a bowl game."

***Jason Ford's fumble: "Not just Jason, none of these guys want to fumble. Sometimes, you have to go through those kind of things to come back with a new resolve. Jason is fine."

***What did you see on Donsay Hardeman's helmet to helmet hit?: "I saw a shoulder pad into the guy's chin. I thought you could do that. I thought the one more than that was when the guy hit Rejus on the fair catch, and his knee buckled. That disturbed me more."

Status of Daniel Dufrene and Xavier Fulton: "As of today, Daniel will be ready to go Saturday. You saw his excitement on the sideline. I'm pretty sure he said something to Jason as well.

"Fulton has had issues with his shoulder all year. I talked to Dr. Gurtler this morning, and he thought he would be ok. He may not go tomorrow in practice, but he's played enough football that if he misses tomorrow he'll be ok."

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