CHAMPAIGN — One of the Big Ten's top returning players hasn't taken a snap this season. Illinois safety Supo Sanni knows exactly what Dan Persa's going through.
Sanni and Persa suffered the same injury, though a couple months apart. In August 2010, Sanni's season ended with a ruptured Achilles' tendon. He redshirted and returned to the Illini full go this year.
"I know how hard the injury is," Sanni said. "That just gives credit to our training staff and the hard work I put in."
On the game-winning touchdown pass against Iowa in November, Persa suffered a torn Achilles and missed the remainder of the season. He is currently listed as an "or" behind Kain Colter, who has started and played effectively for the Wildcats in wins against Boston College and Eastern Illinois.
The Wildcats play Saturday at Army, then have the next Saturday off. Will Persa be back for the Oct. 1 game at Illinois?
"I'm not sure," Sanni said. "They said he had a couple of setbacks. I'm really not sure what he's capable of. If he's not going right now, I don't think he's up to par yet."
Sanni showed he was all the way back with his first career interception Saturday against South Dakota State.
"Definitely a treat," Sanni said. "What DB doesn't like making interceptions, making big plays. The only bigger treat that I could have had was take it back to the house, but I got tackled."
Sanni, who is tied for fourth on the team in tackles, doesn't have any soreness from the injury, and his leg is 100 percent healthy. If anything, Sanni said, his leg is stronger than before.
"I dropped the weight, got smart and have been able to play faster," Sanni said.
This ‘n’ that
Staff writer Bob Asmussen spent Tuesday talking to the Illinois players and coaches. Here’s what he learned:
The Illinois coaches are hoping that fullback Zach Becker returns to the team next season. Becker suffered a likely season-ending broken leg in Saturday’s game against South Dakota State. Because the injury happened early enough in the season, Becker will be eligible for a medical hardship and another season of college football. With Becker on the sideline, Chris Willett is now the backup to Jay Prosch.
GET WITH THE PROGRAM
On the way out of Saturday’s game, fans will be given National Child Identification Program Kits. The kits will be distributed by staff from the FBI Springfield division and the UI police. The distribution of the kits at football games started with a partnership between the FBI and the American Football Coaches Association. In nine years, more than a million kits have been handed out at football games across the country.
After two games, Illinois is averaging 43,683 fans, good for 49th nationally. That number figures to go up next week, with attendance projections for Saturday’s game above 50,000. Illinois was above 50,000 for all six homes games in 2010, with the smallest the 50,371 that showed for Purdue. Illinois is currently ninth in the Big Ten in attendance, ahead of Indiana and Northwestern. Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State lead the nation in attendance, with all three above 102,000.