Zook: Paul Petrino is going to be a head football coach

Heading into last season, question marks surrounded the offense of the Illinois football team, which had a redshirt freshman starting at quarterback, a group of largely unproven wide receivers and a new offensive coordinator running the show.

Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino certainly answered those questions in his first season, breaking the school record for points and helping quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase blossom into one of the brightest young stars in the conference.

Going into year two, the new question surrounding the Illinois offense is whether it can repeat last year’s success.

“Yeah, that’s our goal,” Petrino said. “We come out here, we work hard every day, we set our goals high. Obviously you have to improve every day, have a great attitude out here. There’s no question we’re going to be back where we were last year.”

While Petrino is certainly focused on Illinois and its rapidly approaching season opener, there was a time this offseason when it seemed like he may leave for greener pastures, as his name was often brought up as a possible candidate for open head coaching spots.

Even though Petrino stayed with the Illini this time around, head coach Ron Zook knows someday that won’t be the case.

“Paul is going to be a head football coach. He wants to be a head football coach just like I did,” Zook said. “I understand that. He will. When the job is right it’ll be something to worry about.”

*Freshman RB impresses coaches, teammates alike*

When former running back Mikel Leshoure left for the NFL this past offseason, he left the Illini with a backfield situation that was murky at best. Senior Jason Ford seemed the obvious choice as the new primary ballcarrier, with fellow senior Troy Pollard as a change of pace option.

Things got a little complicated when both were injured for most of the spring practice period and the picture became even fuzzier when it was reported that sophomore Bud Golden would transfer due to a lack of carries.

“Bud Golden felt like he wasn’t going to get an opportunity so he’s probably not going to be with us,” Zook said. “He’s a loss.”

Now freshman Donovonn Young has entered the picture, and he has already started to impress during Camp Rantoul.

“He’s been knocking guys over since he’s been here. He’s going to be an awfully good running back,” Zook said.

Sophomore wide receiver Darius Millines said Young brings a different sort of mentality to the team.

“That guy is always fired up. I love that guy,” Millines said. “He’s like an old school young man. You see him in the locker room put the old school song on nobody knows, and then I put a new song on and he doesn’t know it.”

Ethan Asofsky contributed to this report.