Ron Zook Discusses Quarterback Situation

The Fighting Illini football team is still in a tailspin, but Coach Ron Zook is continuing to look for solutions to some basic problems. He spent much of his Sunday teleconference discussing quarterback play. He says Jacob Charest has earned more playing time, but he still believes both Juice Williams and Eddie McGee can help this team.

Illinois coach Ron Zook had something positive to discuss in his weekly teleconference Sunday. Redshirt freshman Jacob Charest showed well in his first ever action last Saturday at Purdue, and Zook promises he will receive more playing time against Michigan.

"I think so. For his first college experience, he did some nice things. When things were going on all around him, he was looking downfield. He kept his eyes downfield and got rid of the ball quickly. I think we just continue to expand on his package."

There has been no determination on who will start Saturday.

"It's really too early to decide that. I know this. I think we still need Juice to help us too. I don't know exactly what role Juice is gonna be in, or both of them.

"There's been a lot of teams that have had two-quarterback systems. Is it the ideal thing? Probably not. But I've been involved with it before. That's probably what we're leaning to at this point. Both of them are gonna be out there. We're at the point where we've got to do whatever we need to do to win a game.

"They'll both have their little package, and they'll both do some good things. I don't think we're at the point where we have to have one quarterback. If we get on into the week, and we feel that's the best way to do it, then we can do that. But at this point in time we need to be in position where we can play both."

Eddie McGee played receiver at Purdue, but Zook is unwilling to make it a permanent change.

"Anything's possible right now. I've not given up on Eddie as a quarterback by any stretch of the imagination. He's done an awful lot of good things and taken a lot of snaps around here. Eddie is a guy I'd like to have on the field.

"I'll be quite honest. I was worried about Eddie's confidence after the Michigan State game. Whatever happened, I don't want to lose Eddie either. He did some nice things yesterday in the game, and he'll continue to do some nice things in a role people are gonna have to pay attention to."

Mikel Leshoure had perhaps his best day as an Illini with 122 yards rushing Saturday. Zook feels he may have moved ahead of his competition at running back.

"Mikel's kind of beginning to separate himself a little bit. I thought he did pretty well. I think the times Mikel came out of the game, he took himself out. His ankle is still bothering him a little bit.

"I think the good thing about him is he can run, he can catch, he can protect, he's a smart guy. That's not to say we're not gonna use the other guys as well. There's just not many backs that are gonna be every play, every down backs."

Zook also admits that star receiver Arrelious Benn is still not at 100% but continues to fight to help the Illini win games. He cares more about winning than touches.

"To be honest with you, his ankle is still bothering him a little bit. He actually had an AC sprain last week, but he's practiced and gone through everything. He's a tough guy, and he's trying to do everything he can do to help this football team win also.

"We're trying to do the things we think will help us be successful. Obviously, we've got to keep trying, keep changing. But to come out and say give Rejus more touches, I don't care who gets the touches, and Rejus would say the same thing. I want to win, and he's the same way."

Zook said the biggest positive he took from the Purdue game was the attitute of the team when victory was possible in the second half.

"The biggest positive to me, there was a point in the third quarter where it was 21-14. I think our players felt like we were gonna get this thing going, we were going to win. I felt it, and I think the players felt it.

"We just couldn't quite get over the hump. But there was no quit. We played very well in the second half and gave up only three points. And we did some things on offense that were good. Those are the things you have to build on. We're not gonna quit."

Despite the Illini record to date, Zook believes his team will be intense and focused to play Michigan Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

"I think this is a big challenge coming in here, a great opportunity. We haven't beaten Michigan here since 1983. There'll be plenty to get these guys juiced up to play this football team coming in here."


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