Illinois house-cleaning pays off with winning year
Illinois head coach Ron Zook looks around as team warms up before an NCAA college football game against Northwestern at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) By Nam Y. Huh
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Ron Zook says he told his Illini players back in August that they were good enough to beat every team on their schedule.
He says that few believed him. Illinois was coming off a three-win season that cost most of Zook's staff their jobs.
It turns out Zook wasn't far off.
Illinois finished 7-6 with a Texas Bowl win over Baylor on Wednesday. But four of their losses were by a combined eight points. And the Illini had halftime leads against Michigan State and Missouri before losing those games.
Illinois will bring back most of its key players with a few possible exceptions.
Running back Mikel Leshoure, linebacker Martez Wilson and defensive lineman Corey Liuget could all skip their season years for the NFL. None has decided yet.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)