CHAMPAIGN — Illinois wasn’t afraid to use multiple players in the backfield against Southern Illinois.
All to varying degrees of limited success.
None of the alignments in Bill Cubit’s offense, however, featured Dami Ayoola.
None may any time soon.
Ayoola didn’t play against SIU and wasn’t seen on the sidelines.
“We’re in the process of dealing with a situation with Dami,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said Monday of the sophomore running back who played at national powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) High School and who was dubbed one of the best signees in Beckman’s Class of 2012 by CBS Sports Network recruiting expert Tom Lemming.
Beckman declined to elaborate on the situation surrounding Ayoola, who rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns last fall as a true freshman.
“I’ll be able to further comment on that later on,” Beckman said.
Ayoola still is listed on the depth chart for Saturday’s game against Cincinnati as the fourth-string back, with Donovonn Young, Josh Ferguson and Devin Church ahead of him. But don’t expect to see Ayoola play.
The running backs Illinois turns to Saturday will go against a Cincinnati defense that held Purdue to 65 rushing yards in its season opener. Illinois managed 49 rushing yards against SIU as the offense was one-dimensional with Nathan Scheelhaase — who garnered his second career Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor Monday — throwing for 416 yards.
Much of that total wasn’t helped by five sacks Illinois gave up, but Young managed 6 yards on eight carries.
“Sometimes it’s just hard because if a team really wants to take away the run, they’re going to take away the run,” Cubit said. “I don’t care how good you think you are. That’s just what’s going to happen at times. I’ve been on the other end where you rush for a lot of yards and we didn’t throw the ball that well. Then people complain you didn’t throw the ball that well, and, well, that’s because they were taking everything away.”
Ferguson was the most productive running back against the Salukis with 49 yards on nine carries, but he knows Illinois needs more out of its backfield.
“As a whole, the running backs need to read holes better,” Ferguson said. “As a team, we’ve got to remember our schemes and get to those schemes before the defense gets to where it wants to be.”
Showing more aggression is one area Beckman would like to see out of the run game before the Bearcats visit Memorial Stadium.
“We didn’t hit (the hole) as backs like we should,” he said. “We’re more of a power-type running football team. We were moving the ball so well throwing it that it probably took a little bit away from the running game and what we wanted to do. You don’t always blame it on the five or six guys up front. There’s times where there’s holes there, and we need to hit and take it.”