The Daily Illini

Williams impresses, but still no decision on Indiana starter

When Mike Schultz came to the University of Illinois, the Illini offense didn’t seem to think it would miss a beat.

The Illini attested to a smooth transition and thought they had the makings of an explosive offense.

But after a 1-4 start, Schultz’s first season in Champaign has brought nothing short of disappointment.

“I don’t know if I feel real good about anything right now to be truthful,” Schultz said with a tired, disheveled look on his face after Saturday’s 24-14 loss to Michigan State. “You know, this is tough times. I remember an old saying, ‘Tough times never last but tough people do.’ And you know what, we’ve all got to be real tough right now, just keep fighting.”

The Illini offense, which finished second in the Big Ten in total offensive yards in 2008, now ranks ninth in the category.

So change came this week in the form of quarterback Eddie McGee, who took over for four-year starter Juice Williams. But that change didn’t produce the results the Illini hoped, with McGee finishing 2-for-11 for 31 yards and an interception.

“We wanted to somewhat work Eddie into a rhythm, so our approach to some of the things early were a little bit different,” Schultz said. “But we had some situations (with the offensive line), and it was tough on Eddie sometimes.”

Zook partially blamed McGee’s performance on the Illini holding possession for only 8 minutes, 32 seconds in the first half. The quarterback was pulled for Williams early in the third quarter.

“It’s hard for Eddie to get much going when we weren’t very good at defense in the first half,” Zook said. “It’s hard to get any kind of rhythm going, and that is why I left him in there in the second half for awhile. I told Eddie going into this game that he didn’t have to worry about looking over his shoulder, and he still doesn’t have to worry about looking over his shoulder.”

Williams came into the game early in the second half, though, and gave the Illini a ray of hope. The former starter finished 7-for-17 for 109 yards and a touchdown, as the Illini outscored the Spartans 14-0 in the second half.

Williams’ play led to post-game speculation that he would regain his starting role. But both Zook and Schultz said they hadn’t come close to a decision after Saturday’s game.

And while Williams didn’t say if he thought he should start next week against Indiana, he acknowledged that he was somewhat pleased with his performance.

“I feel good that I was able to come in, move the ball pretty good offensively, and that’s definitely something we can improve on,” he said.

As for who would be the starter at Indiana, Williams keeps reporters guessing.

“We could have a situation where I go in for a few series and (McGee) comes in or vice versa, or he plays a whole game,” he said. “Any situation could come up, and, regardless, I’m going to be ready.”

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