ILLINOIS: Four Days and Counting

Bloomington - Indiana and Illinois will be two teams in desperate need of a win this weekend when they square off at 7 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Hoosier Nation looks at four of the key players on Coach Ron Zook's team...

Tavon Wilson, CB - Illinois lost a very good cornerback a year ago in Vontae Davis, the 25th pick in April's NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. Now, it's Wilson who has been asked to step in and fill Davis' shoes as the team's No. 1 corner. Wilson was one of the nation's top prep cornerbacks two years ago and has filled in nicely, ranking second on the team with 36 tackles and first in both passes broken up (4) and passes defended (5). He's coming off his best game of the season, totaling 13 tackles and an interception against Michigan State. Wilson is also an interesting story because of a very difficult childhood. A Washington D.C. native, Wilson's father was murdered when Tavon was one year old and his mother drowned at a pool party when her son was 12. He was raised by his grandmother, which is a similar situation to the one that Davis had as a child in the same D.C. neighborhoods.

Arrelious Benn, WR/KR – The 6'2", 220-pound Benn is one of the most dangerous playmakers in the Big Ten – although his statistics thru the first five games wouldn't suggest that. Benn was a 1,000-yard receiver a season ago but he's been limited to just 13 catches for 176 yards in the season's first five games. Illinois' issue has been that it's been unable to get the ball in his hands nearly as often as it would like. During his All-Big Ten 2008 season, Benn averaged 9.2 touches/game between receptions, rushing attempts and kick returns. As a freshman in 2007 he touched the ball an average of 7.4 times per game. This season, though, that number has dipped to 3.6. Benn hasn't been used in the run game nearly as much this year (2 rushes as opposed to a combined 55 in the last seasons), and teams are kicking away from him on kickoffs. The final issue has been the inability of Illinois' quarterbacks to be on target, as Juice Williams and Eddie McGee are combining to complete just 53.4 percent of their throws. Benn is expected to play in this game despite taking a blow to the head in last week's 24-14 loss to Michigan State.

Mikel LeShoure, RB - Illinois has been rotating three tailbacks this season - Jason Ford, Daniel Dufrene and Leshour. None of the three have separated themselves from the pack, as no Illini tailback has as many as 30 carries on the season. The least utilized of the trio has been Leshour, who has just 17 carries for 85 yards and one touchdown in the four games he's played. Despite that lack of production, there are signs that he could take on a heavier workload this weekend. Leshour had only four touches in last weekend's loss to Michigan State, but had both of the Illini's second-half touchdowns. On Monday Illinois Coach Ron Zook said he'd like to see one of the running backs separate themselves as the primary running back, and he said LeShoure might have that chance with a second straight good performance. Ford and Dufrene figure to get a handful of carries as well, but the 6'0", 225-pound LeShoure should see his workload increase.

Doug Pilcher, DE – Illinois has been largely unable to generate a pass rush against its foes, recording a Big Ten-worst five quarterback sacks in the season's first five games. The only player on the roster with multiple sacks is the 6'5", 260-pound Pilcher, who has two. Pilcher will get a chance to go up against an Indiana offensive line that was unable to keep Virginia from harassing Hoosier quarterback Ben Chappell all afternoon on Saturday. Don't be surprised if Pilcher gets plenty of help in trying to get after Chappell. Virginia, which had generally rushed opposing quarterbacks with four or five players most of the season, was regularly coming at Chappell with six and seven rushers last weekend. That proved to be a formula for success for the Cavaliers, and Illinois might opt to go the same route this weekend.

Coming Up
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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