Dimke to remain as kicker; Hardeman only Illini expected not to be available

Illinois head coach Ron Zook said that sophomore Derek Dimke will continue to be the team’s placekicker as it heads into Saturday’s game against Fresno State.

“I think Derek deserves a chance to continue to kick,” Zook said. “Like I’ve said all along, we have two good kickers. They both can kick and we’re very fortunate in that.”

Dimke improved to 4-for-4 on field goals this season after making kicks from 39, 48 and 30 yards against Cincinnati last week.

Previously, Dimke had served as the team’s primary kickoff specialist, averaging 64.3 yards per kick.

“The one thing you worry about is his kickoffs because he had been doing such a great job with the kickoffs,” Zook said. “I know he can handle it. He can do it. I’m not trying to say he can’t do it. It’s just a concern of mine.”

Zook said not all hope is lost for sophomore kicker Matt Eller, who lost his starting job at placekicker after going 4-for-11 to start the season.

“I think a lot of times you’ll see kickers go through a slump,” Zook said. “It’s like a (baseball) batter. They’ll both be fine.”

Williams ready to move forward after personal best

Heading into his final game in an Illini jersey, senior quarterback Juice Williams will enter Saturday’s game against Fresno State fresh off his best statistical performance of the season.

Facing an undefeated Cincinnati defense last week, Williams completed 21 of 34 passes for 282 yards, tossing three touchdowns without an interception. He also rushed for 67 yards.

In the game, Williams became the first Illini player and only the sixth in Big Ten history to top 10,000 yards of total offense. He now has accounted for 10,327 yards in his career.

“The success I’ve had in the past hopefully created some magical moments for them to be happy about,” Williams said. “Obviously, there are a lot of negative comments about my game with me not being a polished passer and not being the Tom Brady of college football. But I still think that there’s a large group of fans out there who really appreciate my game for the things I have done here and all the records.”

Injury report

Zook said Tuesday that he expects all players to be available for Saturday’s game with the exception of senior safety Donsay Hardeman, who has a neck injury.

“Donsay probably will be the only one not to play,” Zook said. “Everybody else should be ready to go.”

During last week’s game at Cincinnati, Illinois sophomore running backs Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure both left the game early with injuries.

Ford injured his elbow late in the second quarter and missed the second half of the game, but Zook said Ford has been practicing and will be ready to go Saturday. LeShoure left the game in the third quarter after hurting his right ankle.

“Jason got banged up, but it was a bruise,” Zook said. “Every day it’s gotten better. He had a pad on and he was complaining about the pad being big last night. I said it’s better to have a big pad on today and a smaller pad on Saturday.”

“Mikel’s ankle is fine,” Zook added. “Other than that, we were pretty fortunate.”

Zook also said A.J. Jenkins, who did not make the trip to Cincinnati last week due to a knee injury, will be available to play Saturday.