Miami Thomas Out For The Year...Again

A pleasant but windy day greeted the Fighting Illini football team as practices continued at Camp Rantoul. The camp may be winding down, but the enthusiasm is still high despite the loss of cornerback Miami Thomas. The Illini will move back to school in the next couple days and begin classes Monday.

Illinois coach Ron Zook confirmed what everyone suspected about the injury to sophomore cornerback Miami Thomas.

"Yeah, it is an ACL like we thought it was. It's a shame. I feel so bad for him. But a year from now, he'll be ready, and we'll get him ready to go. He will have had both shoulders and both knees fixed, so he should be a 'Six Million Dollar Man.'

While it would be ideal to have the surgery immediately so he will have more recovery time before next season, that is not possible with knee ligament tears.

"With an ACL, they always wait until all the swelling's down and it's not bothering him before they do the surgery. It will be 2-3 weeks. They'll do it as soon as they can get it done, which gives him that much more time to rehab."

Zook also provided an update on the illness that has sidelined offensive guard Jon Asamoah. The coach hasn't announced an official diagnosis yet, but he answered in the affirmative regarding whether he can return to full health.

"I think so. That's not a guy I want to push. We want to be sure he's ok. He's in good spirits. It's driving him nuts. He was out here in the walk-through this morning, and he was going crazy. But he's played a lot of football. He'll be all right."

The Illini have completed their workouts early the last two days. While he didn't say it was a reward for a job well done, he did attribute it to the maturity and experience of the team.

"I'm not cutting back on practices. We have a certain amount of work we're gonna get done. If we get that work done in less time, then we're through. We're not gonna stay out here because the time says that. The harder and faster they go in practice, the more intense they practice, then we'll have a chance to let them go earlier.

"They understand what's going on, so they get through it a lot faster. I believe you can get three hours of work done in two hours if you move."

There were no obvious changes in the depth chart Thursday. WILL linebacker Nate Bussey continues to operate with the first team while sharing time with his replacement Russell Ellington in some defensive alignments.

Dere Hicks practiced with the first unit, while Travon Bellamy operated out of the nickel. Freshman defensive end Michael Buchanan was tried with the first unit in one pass rush drill. Ryan Sedlacek had some reps at second string center, although one bad snap did him no favors.

Zook took the red shirts off quarterbacks Jacob Charest and Nathan Scheelhaase so his defenders could practice an all-out pass rush. They were impressive, much to the chagrin of offensive line coach Joe Gilbert.

Charest got off a couple passes and completed one to Chris Duvalt. But he was sacked by Clay Nurse, Garrett Edwards, Ashante Williams and Nate Palmer. He was caught from behind in the backfield by Martez Wilson.

Scheelhaase saw one pass broken up by Bellamy before Aaron Gress threw him to the ground for a loss. He was also sacked by Josh Brent, and Bo Flowers ran him out of bounds for no gain.

Later during another 11 on 11 segment, Bellamy blew up running back Jason Ford in the backfield as he received a pitch. Safety Supo Sanni broke up a pass. And Flowers and Bellamy intercepted passes during the practice, with the latter being returned for a touchdown.

There were some offensive highlights as well. Duvalt made a tough catch over the middle on a pass from Juice Williams. Arrelious Benn made a leaping stab of a Williams pass on the sideline, outfighting two defenders for the ball. Chris James made a leaping catch of another Williams toss, and Fred Sykes caught a slant pass twenty yards downfield and proceeded to race to the end zone.

Running back Mikel Leshoure made a nice cutback in redzone work for a touchdown against the first string defense. Freshman fullback Greg Fuller helped block on the play. Fellow running back Jason Ford caught a slant pass for a short touchdown and used his strength to power for another score.

Friday's practice has been moved up to 10:45am so the freshmen and other players can get moved into their residences prior to the start of school Monday.

There will be a scrimmage Saturday to conclude Camp Rantoul, although it may be moved up to a time earlier than 3:30pm if Coach Zook believes his players deserve an early out from camp.

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