Tate: With a new year comes a wealth of questions

CHAMPAIGN – Santa Claus has an overwhelming job climbing down all those chimneys. Here are a few folks Santa missed as he made his annual rounds.

– Where is the punter to go along with Ron Zook's fresh catch?

Catching up with ...

Each Sunday, contributor Dan Petty will offer five questions to a current NFL player or coach with Illinois ties. This week: Steelers receiver Walter Young.

UI-bound Richmond part of growing trend

WINNETKA – From inside Patrick McHugh's courtside office, the chirping sneakers and busy bleachers are muffled by a pane of glass. Through the window, it seems you can see the noise before you hear it. And it is hoppin' in the old crackerbox gym at North Shore Country Day school. Hoppin' like it rarely has on a frigid Friday night in early December

McHugh, the school's athletic director, keeps tabs on the student section from his office. In the front row, JV teammates from visiting Morgan Park Academy tap-tap-tap text messages on their Motorola Sidekicks, the first sign you're in a privileged crowd. Mere miles from the Chicago Public League, a tax bracket away in the Independent School League.

Illini duo comes up roses in all-star game

JACKSON, Miss. – Offensive Most Valuable Player Jerry Babb of Louisiana-Lafayette and Tim Brasic of Illinois passed for touchdowns in the first half, Illinois' Pierre Thomas scored on a 1-yard run and the Green team ran away with a 32-14 win against the Red team in the Magnolia Gridiron Classic.

Tate: Henson chipper still as 75 nears

CHAMPAIGN – Where was your flashbulb camera when you needed it?

There he was, a robust septuagenarian, chipping balls on the university golf course at 5:30 in the morning. He would have speed-walked to the links but he needed his car lights to illuminate the putting green.

Ex-Illini Storey in trouble again

BISMARCK, N.D. – Martynas Andriuskevicius, assigned to the NBA Development League's Dakota Wizards by the Chicago Bulls, was recovering from a minor skull fracture and a concussion Saturday, two days after he was punched by a teammate, former Illini Awvee Storey.

Tate: Zook, assistants, players all have roles in recruiting

CHAMPAIGN – If Ron Zook can piece together two banner recruiting seasons off consecutive two-win seasons, what's his upper limit if the Illini start winning?

Martez Wilson's acceptance of the 19th scholarship Thursday – Detroit's Tigers are contractually obligated to pay the way for the 20th, safety Bo Flowers – brings the question into focus. Zook is showing himself to be as advertised, a workaholic with extraordinary salesmanship and closing skills.

Coming soon

The state's top-rated recruit, Chicago Simeon's Martez Wilson, made a commitment to Illinois on Thursday. Here are the players who have told Ron Zook they are coming:

Wilson gets word he'll play both ways, then gives UI his word

CHICAGO – Picture this: The Illinois freshman grabs Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel, forcing a fumble. His teammates recover the ball. The next play, the freshman, now playing offense, finds an opening in the back corner of the end zone and catches Juice Williams' pass for a touchdown.

Sound impossible? Not according to the folks who have followed Martez Wilson's high school career.

Nyquist nears return from injury woes

PEORIA – Megan Nyquist is moving closer to a return.

The oft-injured Illinois guard did not make the trip to Bradley with the team Thursday, instead heading back to her Lee's Summit, Mo., home. But she is scheduled to take part in her first full workout of the season Tuesday, UI coach Theresa Grentz said.