CHAMPAIGN — Ted Karras on crutches.
Not a good sight given the season opener against Southern Illinois is only 11 days away for Tim Beckman’s Illini.
Karras, who started all 12 games last year at right guard, stood in the back of the team huddle to listen to Beckman and Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas address the squad near the north end zone at the end of Tuesday’s only practice at Memorial Stadium. He used the crutches to get off the field and appeared to favor his left ankle.
Beckman did not elaborate on the severity of Karras’ injury nor did he disclose how it happened. Tuesday’s practice, and practices the rest of the week, are open to the media for the first half hour and closed to the public.
Illinois opened Tuesday’s practice with a scrimmage, and Beckman said Karras’ injury happened towards the end of the first half of the scrimmage.
If Karras can’t go, Joe Spencer could fill in at right guard. Illinois utilized Spencer last week in Rantoul at left guard, but Beckman said the redshirt freshman from Mason, Ohio, can play right guard if needed.
“He’s the sixth guy that will definitely be playing a lot for us,” Beckman said.
Beckman said linebacker Mason Monheim (hamstring) is “fine,” but still wasn’t 100 percent on Tuesday.
“We kind of kept him out again,” Beckman said. “We don’t want it to affect anything further. He’ll probably be going full (on Wednesday), but wasn’t necessary for him to go (Tuesday).”
Injuries are a sticky subject with Beckman, who indicated he wouldn’t discuss injuries with the media moving forward until the Thursday before a game.
“From here on out, I’m not going to talk about injuries,” Beckman said. “I’ll give you that final injury deal on Thursday for the team’s sake and the kids’ sake.”
Depth is another touchy topic. It’s an issue Beckman and offensive coordinator Bill Cubit have stressed repeatedly this month.
“We just don’t have depth,” Beckman said. “We’ve got to continue to get the young guys ready to play. Last year, like I said, they’re playing high school ball, and this year, they’re going to be backups and compete to try to be starters. You look out there, our second team is all freshmen on defense. Where else is that happening in the Big Ten?”
Cubit said Illinois can’t afford injuries at any position on offense or defense.”
“We’re a little bit thin,” he said. “I think what we’re doing helps those guys, too. We’re not exposing them as much in terms of spacing.”
Even with Karras, Monheim and Eric Finney (knee), the projected starter at STAR coming out of spring practice, dealing with injuries, Beckman is confident his starting lineup is intact otherwise.
“There’s still competition,” Beckman said. “That’s the greatest thing about football is you get 12 opportunities, and you’ve got to perform every day that you’re out there on the football field to make the team better. If we had to go out there and settle on starters, it’d probably be the guys that were listed early in the season.”