This 'n' that
Staff writer Bob Asmussen spent Tuesday talking to the Illinois players and coaches. Here's what he learned:
Illinois offensive tackle Corey Lewis, who has missed more than a season because of a torn ACL, will go to New York on Thursday and visit with the doctors who did the latest work on him. Illinois coach Ron Zook said he hopes to have an idea by Sunday on how soon Lewis will be available. Lewis has continued to practice with the Illini but is awaiting clearance to return to the field. "The doctor wants to see where he's at, wants to see strength levels and so forth," Zook said. "Corey's been out there working extremely hard. You can't force the issue. It's going to happen when it happens."
Going into the season, the Illinois defensive front seven was considered a weak point. The players heard the criticism, Zook said, and did something about it. "I think they took it a little bit as a challenge." Zook pointed out that three of the four starters are back on the line and that Whitney Mercilus was one of the most improved players since last season. But the outside attention went to the loss of Corey Liuget a year early to the NFL. "That's what is kind of exciting about a new year," Zook said. "You've got a chance to have guys that get to show people, 'Hey, we can play. We're not chopped liver.' "
BACK TO WORK
A week after scoring the first touchdown of his college career, freshman tailback Donovonn Young had his first fumble. But one mistake doesn't mean he is out of the picture for the offense. Far from it. "If anybody knows he can't fumble, it's Donovonn," Zook said. "I don't worry about that at all in terms of him running the football." Zook talked to Young after the game about the fumble. The conversation made the freshman feel better. "If we felt like he was the type of guy who couldn't handle that situation, he wouldn't be in there," Zook said. "He'll learn from it."
The 3-0 start can't do anything but help his team's recruiting, Zook said. The Illini had several prospects in town for the Arizona State game, and the positive results on the field meant a good weekend for the players. "They saw the atmosphere," Zook said. "They were in the locker room after the game and they saw that. That's a good feeling."