Zook, players look ahead to fall

Editor’s note: The following is a round-up of some of the topics discussed at Big Ten Media Days regarding the Illinois football team.

Games at Wrigley Field?

Depth chart previews and debate over the prestige of the Big Ten took a back seat for part of Tuesday’s session of the Big Ten Media Days, as Illinois head coach and Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald discussed the possibility of a game at Wrigley Field.

Zook and Fitzgerald confirmed both school’s interest in holding the annual Northwestern-Illinois match up at the Cubs stadium in the near future, with representatives from each school meeting with Cubs chairman Crane Kenney on Sunday night.

Northwestern spokesman Mike Wolf said the soonest possible game would be late in the 2010 season.

Zook was able to visit Wrigley Field on Sunday night to see how well the stadium could fit a football field, which would be from the third base line to right field.

“(The Cubs) feel like it could be a great fit and Northwestern feels like it could be a great fit,” Zook said. “But there are a lot of issues that need to be worked out. The issue more than anything is how the field is laid out, how much feet you have behind the end lines. It won’t be a lot of room.”

Both Zook and Fitzgerald reiterated the preliminary nature of the discussions of the Wrigley Field game, but Fitzgerald stressed that it would be Northwestern sacrificing a home game.

“As far as who our opponent will be, that’s not set in stone,” Fitzgerald said. “I know Ron (Zook) is interested and I know (Northwestern athletic director) Jim (Phillips) and (Illinois athletic director) Ron (Guenther) have talked and there is interest.”

While Zook spoke of watching the Bears play at Wrigley Field, Fitzgerald wasn’t able to — he wasn’t even born yet. The team moved to Soldier Field in 1971.

“I was way too young for that,” Fitzgerald said with a laugh. “But to walk on the same sidelines as George Halas, and the list goes on and on – that would be a humbling honor.”

Juice Williams enters final year

Illinois senior quarterback Juice Williams heads into his fourth and final year behind center for Zook’s Illini, marking the end of a career in which he feels like he has “gone on forever.”

But facing the end of his days in Orange and Blue, Williams is having a bit of trouble grasping the notion that it is all coming to an end.

“Everyday I think about it, it starts sinking it that it’s almost over,” Williams said. “I can’t believe it, still kind of shocked about it. All I can do is try and make the most of the opportunity now.”

One of Zook’s first prized recruits, Williams is expected to set school records for total offense and career starts by a quarterback.

“It’s gone so fast. I always tell him, I want him to enjoy this year,” Zook said. “He’s given a lot and worked extremely hard. He’s gone through tough times, and I just want him to enjoy this year.”

The first stop on the good bye tour for Williams was throwing out the first pitch at Monday’s Cubs game against the Houston Astros.

“It was another one of those milestones that you’ll never forget,” Williams said. “I can throw a football, but I haven’t thrown a baseball in months, so I was real nervous.”

Benn’s pregame rituals

Surrounded by reporters, junior wide receiver Arrelious Benn was asked about any pregame rituals that he had.

The 2008 All-Big Ten selection thought for a moment and hesitated a bit before giving his revealing answer.

“Before every game, I’ll tear up and cry,” Benn said. “It kind of wells inside of me before I go out.”

Benn said his pregame tears started during his high school days back in Washington D.C., and has not been something that he hides from his teammates.

“I just have so much respect for the game and get so caught up in my emotions that I just have to let it out,” Benn said.