Illini punter snags award

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Online Poster

By Lisa Koulias

After being the one bright spot in Illinois’ loss to Minnesota on Saturday, Illini punter Steve Weatherford was honored by the Big Ten for his performance.

The junior was named this week’s Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.

“Steve’s had a great year,” head coach Ron Turner said. “Steve’s been very steady, very consistent for us all year. He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s got a great leg, he’s an outstanding competitor and he did a great job for us on Saturday.

“He was a huge weapon for us Saturday and unfortunately we did not take advantage.”

Weatherford totaled a career-high 372 yards on eight punts, an average of 46.5 yards per punt on Saturday. Five of his eight punts were inside the 20-yard line, including three downed inside the 10-yard line. Four of the punts went for 50 or more yards, with the longest soaring 57 yards. One of the eight punts was returned.

“It’s an honor,” Weatherford said. “It’s really special to be able to get something like that because there are a lot of great competitors in the conference. But it’s definitely really special to get something like that, but (I could not have done it) without the supporting cast that I have.”

Weatherford, who has averaged 45.6 yards per punt this season, is ranked fourth in the nation and second in the Big Ten. He is on a pace to break his own school single-season punting average record of 44.5 yards he set last year.

This season, 24 of his 35 kicks have been unreturned and 13 have been pinned inside the opponent 20-yard line. Weatherford is also in charge of kickoffs and long-range field goals.

Although Weatherford doesn’t want to think about his future just yet, Turner sees his punter in an NFL uniform.

“Is he an NFL prospect in my mind? Yeah, I don’t think there is any question,” Turner said. “He has the athleticism, he’s got the height that they usually look for in their punters and he’s got tremendous leg strength and hangtime.”

No more QB craziness

After waiting to name his quarterback for the past several weeks, Turner decided to continue to start redshirt freshman Brad Bower – who earned the start last week against Minnesota.

“Brad didn’t do anything not to deserve the chance to start,” Turner said. “He did some good things. He made some plays running and he made some plays throwing the football and he did some good things. He made some mistakes, which I don’t know any quarterbacks we’ve played that haven’t made mistakes. He didn’t have a lot of help. We didn’t play very well around him. We didn’t run the ball very well and we didn’t protect the ball.

“Brad’s done enough good things to earn the right to start again.”

Quarterback Jon Beutjer, who started at the beginning of the season, has fallen off the depth chart. But Turner says Beutjer will still see playing time.

“If something happens and we have to put someone in to makes some plays, Jon very well could go in,” Turner said. “Jon’s got a tremendous attitude. He’s helping the young guys. He’s working hard, so Jon very well could be the No. 2 guy. We need to have Jon ready to go and he very well could play.”

Orange and Blue

Illinois men’s basketball team will compete in its annual Orange and Blue scrimmage on Saturday. Game time is set for 4 p.m. and doors will open at 2:30 p.m. There are still tickets available for the game. They cost $2 for students and $10 for general public.

Dad’s Day game

Game time was announced for Illinois’ last home football game of the season. The Illini will take on Indiana at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6. The game will not be televised.

Not focusing on

future

“Right now I am just focusing on trying to do what I can do to help this football team win. And I am going to put all my concentration into that. And again my main concern is for these guys. They’ve earned it, they deserve it and I would love to see nothing more than to see them have some success. I’m just focusing on what we can do to beat Iowa.”

– head coach Ron Turner when asked about his job security