Ask the opponent: Illinois

In what will become a weekly feature, InsideMizzou contacted a expert on the Illinois Fighting Illini team to ask him some questions about their upcoming match-up with our Mizzou Tigers. Go inside to see what he had to say.

In what will hopefully become a weekly feature, I will ask an expert of our opponent (hopefully their respective publisher) some questions regarding their game with Mizzou. Hopefully I could get some of you all involved in submitting some questions as well. This week, we start by asking Jack Lyman of some questions about this year's Fighting Illini team.

InsideMizzou: How has Juice Williams looked in the off-season and what are the expectations for his 2009 season?

Jack Lyman: Juice continues to improve. I think this will be his best year. He is more relaxed, more mature and has become a team leader.

IM: Do Ron Zook and the coaching staff want to put more of an emphasis on the running game this season with Daniel Dufrene or will it be a whole lot of Juice in 2009?

JL: I definitely think they want to balance run and pass. Dufrene is nursing a sore ankle, so his availability is questionable right now. But there are 3-4 other runners expected to play, and they all could get carries. Of course, Juice on the option is part of that package, as always.

IM: How does the new linebacking corps led by Martez Wilson look?

JL: I think Martez will come into his own this year. The same for SAM Ian Thomas. Illinois often uses only 2 linebackers against spread teams. Converted safety Nate Bussey is fast for a WILL. If those three stay healthy, they should be pretty good.

IM: Who will step up to be a pass rusher this year on the defensive line?

JL: It will be pass rush by committee. The defensive tackles should provide more push up the middle, the d-ends are competent if not speedy, and there will likely be some blitzing at times. The pass rush is an unknown at this point.

IM: How do the Illini plan on replacing Vontae Davis? Is there anyone that looks like they could step up and be a shutdown corner this year like Davis was the past couple of years?

JL: Tavon Wilson has improved a great deal at cornerback. Vontae had great ability, but he didn't always carry out his assignments properly. Wilson may eventually help Illinois fans forget Davis, but he is still a sophomore.

IM: What is your prediction for the game and why?

JL: I am not good at predictions. I feel better this year than the last two years because of the leadership and unity of the team. But until Illinois stops Missouri's offense, I must remain dubious.

Black & Gold Illustrated Top Stories