Illini coaches, players unworried about status of Jenkins

When senior wide receiver AJ Jenkins underwent wrist surgery during spring practices it was generally considered a minor procedure, one that would not affect his status during the fall in any way.

But with Illinois’ season opener against Arkansas State rapidly approaching, Jenkins still has yet to participate fully in practices.

Instead, he is wearing the dreaded red jersey, meaning he cannot participate in any sort of contact.

Despite the limited participation, Illinois coaches and players are still confident that Jenkins, who led the Illini in receiving last season, will be fully healthy by the team’s first game.

“He’s fine, he’s fine,” tight end Evan Wilson said. “He’s like 98 percent, so he’s ready to go whenever.”

In fact, Jenkins’ red jersey has become the butt of jokes for some players on the team. Wilson said Jenkins must wear it as a “fashion statement.”

“He should have taken some reps at quarterback today,” quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase quipped.

All kidding aside, head coach Ron Zook reiterated that the move is just precautionary.

“AJ is having more contact than he’s really supposed to. He’s fine,” Zook said.

Scheelhaase anxious to get back in the game

Jenkins isn’t the only Illini player who has been held out of contact so far this fall, as Scheelhaase has also been wearing the red jersey in an attempt to stay healthy for the upcoming season.

“It just gets annoying,” Scheelhaase said of the red jersey. “You don’t really know what’s a sack and what’s not. It’s hard to know when you’ve been touched in the pocket and it’s being called a sack. It changes the way you play the game in general.”

No matter how much the quarterback pleads, though, he isn’t likely to see any contact before the team’s Sept. 3 opener.

“Arkansas State, they’ll get the first shot at me,” Scheelhaase said. “I’ll be looking forward to it.”

No new update on status of suspended linebacker

Coming into the season, junior linebacker Ashante Williams figured to have a decent shot at earning snaps at a relatively inexperienced position despite making the switch from defensive back.

But when he was arrested early on the morning of July 30 on charges of driving under the influence, that possibility suddenly changed. The next day the team announced that Williams would be suspended indefinitely.

With just a week before the season opener, Zook still has yet to offer any insight on if or when Williams could return to the team.

When asked about the situation, all the coach offered was a simple “don’t know,” opting not to elaborate further.

Williams played defensive back in all 13 games last season, recording 19 tackles to go along with a pass breakup.

Last season, bandit Michael Buchanan missed two games after being suspended indefinitely for a similar issue.