Dietz: Still a hitter after the switch

PHOENIX – Mark Schlereth was talking about footwork, strength, athletic ability – all the things that would make a team want to turn a defensive end into an offensive tackle. But the former standout blocker and current ESPN analyst couldn't resist one more jab.

"Oh, yeah, he must be a smart kid because if he wasn't, he wouldn't have moved," Schlereth said. "Those defensive linemen aren't too smart. He was probably too smart to play the defensive line."

Catching up

A look at former Illini in NFL training camps

Zook's debut has Illini fans on their feet

CHAMPAIGN – The crowd chanted its new hero's name, "Zook. Zook. Zook." And the first-year coach sprinted over like a high schooler, pumping his fists in the air and shouting, "Thank you. Thank you."

"I wanted them to understand that we appreciate them, that we need them," Ron Zook said.

Locksley puts pieces of puzzle together

CHAMPAIGN – When it came time to passing out postgame tributes, Ron Zook started with his assistants.

"The coaches did a great job," Zook said. "I can't say enough about the adjustments, getting us in the right situations, making sure the players knew what was going on. That's so critical. Those guys, they did it."

Illini freshmen instant veterans

CHAMPAIGN – Brit Miller always had the mind-set that he would not redshirt his freshman season. On Saturday afternoon, all the preseason work paid off.

"Just being out there in front of the orange and blue and in front of these great fans, it was definitely an experience," said Miller, a Decatur Eisenhower product. "My personality and everything, I really didn't want to get redshirted since I thought I could contribute. There's going to be times this season when I think I will be able to contribute. Today was not one of those days. It was a real tight ballgame, and you had to be involved in that game to contribute. There wasn't room for me today."

Tate: Brasic bails out a shaky defense

CHAMPAIGN – Pass defense is not an Illini strength.

How's that for an understatement?

UI football game statistics

Illinois 33, Rutgers 30, overtime

Starting lines

Tim Brasic on Saturday became the 14th different UI quarterback to start a season opener since 1980. How they fared:

Freshmen contribute in volleyball

DEKALB – Illinois volleyball coach Don Hardin doesn't normally like to rely on fresh-men, but he was feeling a lot better after Kayani Turner's performance Friday against Austin Peay.

Turner helped the Illini defeat Austin Peay 30-14, 30-25, 32-34, 30-28 after UI senior Rachel VanMeter sustained an eye injury going up for a block in Game 1.

Vintage Illini

Catching up with Ray Redziniak: