Four Days and Counting

Like Coach Terry Hoeppner's Hoosiers, Illinois is a team playing a slew of youngsters as it builds for the future. Find out who are some of the names to know from Coach Ron Zook's Illini team...

QB Isiah "Juice" Williams – Some early-season struggles by senior quarterback Tim Brasic has resulted in a new era for the Illini offense. True freshman Isiah "Juice" Williams has supplanted Brasic as the team's starter and he'll give the Indiana defense plenty to worry about Saturday.

The 6-2, 220-pound Williams was one of the top quarterback prospects in the country a year ago. The Chicago native threw for 1,841 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior at Vocational H.S. and added 1,441 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing. He started the 2006 season backing up Brasic, but moved into the starting lineup two weeks ago once Big Ten play opened.

While he's a capable passer, at this point in his career his ability to run presents the biggest challenge to the IU defense. He ran for 103 yards on 17 carries in Illinois' upset of Michigan State, teaming with Illini tailback Pierre Thomas (18 carries, 110 yards) to lead an Illini ground attack that produced 252 yards on the ground against the Spartans.

Indiana's preference would be to keep him in the pocket and force him to throw. He's completing only 39.7 percent of his passes thus far, including a 9-of-32 effort in his starting debut against Iowa's zone coverage.

DE Derek Walker- Having time to throw has been an issue for Hoosier quarterbacks this season, and 6-4, 270-pound Illini defensive end Derek Walker will try to take advantage of IU's inexperienced offensive line this weekend.

Walker has been one of the Big Ten's best pass rushers in the early going, totaling 4 ½ sacks in Illinois' first five games to go along with 14 tackles. Walker is a big, athletic defensive end who will pose a big challenge for either Charlie Emerson or Rodger Saffold this weekend. Walker figures to be particularly effective if the Hoosier ground attack proves to be ineffective. If Walker is able to forget about the run and concentrate on simply getting after the quarterback, he could be in for a big afternoon.

CB Vontae Davis- And you thought Indiana was undergoing a youth movement…The 6-0, 185-pound Davis is one of 16 true freshmen who have played this season for the Illini. Along with quarterback Juice Williams, Davis' role has been a very important one as he's moved into the starting lineup at cornerback.

Davis has been a starter since the season-opener against Eastern Illinois and combines excellent size with 4.3 speed in the 40. It's a good bet that 6-1, 175-pound junior Alan Ball will draw 6-7 James Hardy when the Illini are in man coverage, leaving Davis to go up against James Bailey or Andrew Means or whomever Indiana opts to start in Saturday's contest.

A native of Washington, D.C., Davis is the younger brother of former Maryland tight end Vernon Davis, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.

RB Pierre Thomas- The last time Indiana traveled to Champaign, Thomas helped lead the Illini back from a 19-0 first-quarter hole to eventually upend the Hoosiers 26-22. Thomas ran for a career-high 185 yards on 21 carries that afternoon, including a 44-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.

Thomas has been splitting carries this season with senior E.B. Halsey and sophomore Rashard Mendenhall, and the emergence of quarterback Juice Williams gives the Illini another weapon in the running game. But the Indiana defense has allowed three straight starting tailbacks to rush for at least 100 yards against them, and Thomas will look to make it four in a row. If Indiana can't keep Thomas from getting going early, it could be a long afternoon in Champaign.

What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Key Matchups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do to Win
On Friday – One Bold Prediction Top Stories