CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Since Rashard Mendenhall left Illinois for the NFL after the 2007 season, coach Ron Zook has turned the running duties over to a small village of backs.
Jason Ford, Mikel LeShoure, Daniel Dufrene, Troy Pollard and Justin Green have all carried the ball this season. None has more than 29 carries, while Mendenhall averaged 20 a game in his last season in Champaign.
Illinois' backs have averaged almost 7 yards a carry this fall in the Illini's 1-and-4 start.
Zook says he's comfortable without a true go-to back. He maintains few teams really have one any more because of injuries and the pounding a ball carrier takes.
The numbers back him up.
Only one Big Ten back is averaging 20 or more carries this season. That's Wisconsin's John Clay at 22. He's also the only back in the conference averaging 100 or more yards a game.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)