Zook unveils new look for Illini offense

By Derek Barichello

With former head coach Ron Turner and his pro-set offense 124 miles away in Chicago, the offense in Champaign will have a new look.

A critique on Turner’s offense last season was that it was too complicated for the collegiate level. Head coach Ron Zook and his staff hope to bring a different approach.

The Illini’s new offense might not be as complicated, but looks to be more aggressive than a year ago. It will focus on keeping defenses on their toes, using spread formations and no-huddle.

“We want an offense that really attacks at the defense,” Zook said. “We want to force them to go through lots of adjustments during the game.”

The biggest wrinkle to the offense from last season could be the addition of the quarterback option to the playbook.

The Illini have been running different versions of the option in practice and in scrimmages, but Zook said he is unsure if it will become part of their arsenal.

“We’re toying with the idea a little bit,” Zook said. “We’re seeing how well we can run it.”

Zook said the players have been picking up the offense well.

“We’re making improvements,” Zook said. “They’ll run it better the more they do it. Football is a reaction game, so the more they do it the more they will continue to improve.

“Consistency will be the key to running this offense.”

“The Dog Days” Of Practice

In Tuesday’s practice, the team avoided the summer blues by heading to Memorial Stadium for an intrasquad scrimmage.

Zook said the team was sharp on both sides of the ball, but still has a lot of work to do before the season opener against Rutgers on Sept. 3.

“The defense was a little lax, but both sides of the ball are exactly where we said they need to be.”

Zook said it is important for the team to be improving during these “dog days” between Camp Rantoul and the opener.

“I don’t consider them the dog days,” Zook said. “These are the most important days to improve. The players saw things they needed to see.”

“We Must Protect This House”

Zook was happy to get the team on the Memorial Stadium field on Tuesday.

“This is our house. We’ve got to love to play here.”

The Best Defense Is Offense

In the scrimmage, the Illini offense worked on many situations from their own goalline.

“It’s so important that when we get backed up, we are able to get out,” Zook said. “I don’t want our defense starting from the 50-yardline, because when the defense starts with a short field it gives the offense more opportunity to get points.”

Zook said the Illini will be aggressive at their own goalline this season.

“I like coaching the offense down there, because I like to take chances,” Zook said. “Educated guesses, though. Not dumb chances.”

Who’s the fastest?

When Zook was asked who the fastest guy on the team was on Tuesday, he said the team had not timed 40’s yet, but guessed sophomore defensive back Charles Bailey on defense and freshman wide receiver Derek McPherson on offense.