CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Quarterback Juice Williams will be on the bench when Illinois takes on Michigan State on Saturday, a week after he became the all-time leader in offensive production for the Illini.
Illini coach Ron Zook told WDWS Radio in Champaign on Monday that backup quarterback Eddie McGee will start over Williams. Zook said he hopes McGee will give the 1-3 Illini (0-2 Big Ten) a spark.
Team officials said Williams, a senior who has been a starter since his freshman year, was not available to take questions Monday during a players' teleconference with reporters or after practice.
Zook said he considered pulling Williams during Illinois' 35-17 loss to Penn State on Saturday, but Zook decided to let the senior work through a game in which he initially struggled. During the game, Williams surpassed former Illini quarterback Kurt Kittner to become the all-time offensive yards leader at Illinois.
"This is not pointing the finger at Juice at all," Zook told WDWS. "This poor guy, if anything, I think it takes the pressure off of him a little bit."
McGee has played extensively in his time at Illinois, most recently taking the snaps through most of last month's win over Illinois State after Williams left with an injury.
The redshirt junior from Washington, D.C., is 52-94 in his career in Champaign, with five interceptions and three touchdowns. He's also run for four TDs and occasionally lines up at receiver.
Illini receiver Arrelious Benn, one of Williams' closer friends on the team, said McGee may be a little better runner than Williams, who led Illinois in rushing last season.
Benn said he talked to both players after learning of the switch Monday and believes Williams is handling his benching well.
"Juice told me that he and Eddie got together last night and talked about things," Benn said. "I know it's not going to divide the locker room."
Benn said he told McGee the team isn't expecting perfection.
"I told Eddie this morning, `You know, this is a situation that you can make the best of. Everything's not going to be perfect, you're going to make mistakes... Just lead us."
Williams entered the season looking to end what has been an up-and-down career at Illinois on a high note.
After being heavily recruited out of Chicago, he led Illinois as a sophomore to the Rose Bowl.
But last year's team struggled at 5-7, and this year's squad has struggled offensively and beaten only Illinois State, an FCS school.
Williams tis 51-89 passing for 519 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions this season. He's carried the ball 49 times for 152 yards.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)