By MARCUS JACKSON
CHAMPAIGN — If anyone can get this Illinois team to believe it can turn its season around, it’s one of the team’s newest faces. Tommy Davis, a fifth-year transfer from Northern Illinois, has been in this position before.
Last year, the Huskies were 2-3 after five games, only to run the table en route to winning the Mid-American Conference championship.
“The biggest thing is you’ve got to keep playing; there’s never a season that’s over,” Davis said. “You do whatever you can to help, especially being a senior, this is my last year, and you don’t want to go out like that. You want to go out being a winner, so any chance I get I try to get them motivated. We’ve got a group of motivated guys; we’ve just got to put it together.”
Another similarity between this year’s Illinois team and Davis’ NIU team of last year is they were both under
the direction of first-year coaches. The Huskies were adjusting to new coach Dave Doeren after Jerry Kill left for Minnesota.
Tim Beckman and his staff are in their first year after replacing Ron Zook.
“These guys kind of know what going through a coaching change is like, too. Zook’s staff kind of changed; he stayed the head guy, but the staff changed from year to year, so they know what it’s like,” Davis said. “We kind of relate to each other on that. I don’t know if it’s ever really been a thing with the coaches; everybody’s kind of bought in with the coaching staff. It’s all about getting it together on Saturday.”
Illini mourning. The death of former NFL star Alex Karras hit close to home for the Illini. Sophomore offensive lineman Ted Karras is the great-nephew of Karras, who died Tuesday in Los Angeles after complications from kidney failure.
Alex Karras was the Outland Trophy winner as a defensive tackle at Iowa and was named to four Pro Bowls as a member of the Detroit Lions.
Beckman met Karras as a child when his father, Dave Beckman, was on the staff there.
“He and Bob Commings, the former head coach at Iowa, were close friends. As a third-grader, fourth-grader, I got to meet Alex Karras,” Beckman said. “He meant so much to the game of football, and we’re sorry that he’s no longer with us because he meant so much to football.”
Hawthorne progressing. Beckman said Terry Hawthorne, who left the Wisconsin game in an ambulance after a big hit, practiced some Wednesday but “not a whole bunch.” The cornerback will be evaluated again after today’s practice, and his availability for Saturday’s game at Michigan will be made later in the week.
“He’s a little better; he’s been progressing every day, which is good to see,” Beckman said. “He’s just a little stiff.”