If Dominique Keller, the pride of Port Arthur, Tex., plays a big role in the South Padre Invitational, it wouldn't be the first time Illinois was rescued by a Texan's heroics in his home state. In 2005, Dallas native Warren Carter dropped in a short jumper in the paint with 1.2 seconds left, lifting the Illini, who had trailed most of the game, past Wichita State 55-54 in their Friday game. They went on to beat Rutgers the next day for the tournament championship.
Illinois plays Kent State today, and will meet Texas A&M or Tulsa tomorrow.
The Champaign News-Gazette posted the following item:
``Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley interviewed for the vacant Clemson coaching position on Nov. 7 in Detroit, TigerIllustrated reported.
``Locksley could not be reached for comment. He has never hidden his desire to be a head coach. He also has said he wants to be in a competitive situation. Clemson would certainly provide that opportunity.
``Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips isn't necessarily looking for someone with head coaching experience. Others on the Clemson list include Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and former Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin.''
My thoughts. . . Locksley's name will come up in connection with some vacancies, and he might even up taking one. But given the way Illinois' season has gone, he's not as hot a commodity as he would have been if they'd won a few more games. And he could improve his standing if Illinois bounces back next year, which it has a chance to do.
Not being the hot assistant on a hot team doesn't necessarily matter. But Locksley, who has all the makings of becoming an excellent head coach, is sharp enough that he'll wait for the right job, one where he has the best chance to be successful--and that's more likely to come in a year or two.
It's not clear how serious this Clemson deal is. If Clemson is serious, that's a pretty good place to coach. Another possibility is Syracuse, and Locksley's East Coast roots make him a good fit. But he'll want to make sure that's the right place for him before before jumping there. Syracuse has been swallowing up coaches lately.
Illinois still looks awfully thin upfront, but the Illini feel they're not as thin after seeing Richard Semrau play 17 emergency minutes in their 69-63 win at Vanderbilt Thursday because fellow sophomore big men Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis were in foul trouble.
Semrau missed his only shot and had one turnover, but he also had three rebounds and two steals, and the Illini would not have survived without his defense.
``Rich did a lot of things that don't show up in the box score,'' said Demetri McCamey, who led Illinois with 23 points.
Whether the frontline will hold up as the season wears on is an open question. Sophomore Bill Cole and freshman Stan Simpson apparently aren't ready to contribute, nor is junior C.J. Jackson who's back from his football experiment.
But Illinois will enjoy this one and worry about frontline when the time comes. And it will come in the rugged Big Ten, if not sooner.
The receiver corps, already a strength, will get even stronger next year when Jarred Fayson is available. A transfer from Florida, the 6-0, 209-pound Tampa product, who was one of Illinois' best players in spring practice, has continued to turn heads on the scout team this fall, including the role of Terrelle Pryor last week. ``He can mimic just about anyone because he was a quarterback in high school,'' Ron Zook said. ``That's what he was playing the first time I met him. He's been unbelievable, he really has. We're all looking forward to getting Jarred out there.''
Defensive tackle Josh Brent, who initially was considered questionable for Northwestern after an MCL sprain vs. Ohio State, was feeling better than expected and has not been ruled out for NU. Illinois' only other injury of consequence is the turf toe of Eddie McGee, and McGee said he'll be ready to go.
There is a way the Illini could revive their goal of finishing with a winning season, which would give them their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1989-90. If they beat NU, land a bowl slot and win their bowl, they could get to 7-6. But the Wildcats, who are 8-3, are a confident bunch who will be difficult to beat, and Illinois still could get shut out of a bowl berth at 6-6.
Fullback Rahkeem Smith and linebacker Ian Thomas, who sat out the
Western Michigan for violating unspecified team rules, are back in
business. Both practiced and will be available for the Ohio State game.
Freshman running back Mikel LeShoure remains out after suffering a
broken jaw in a fight with receiver Jeff Cumberland. The team has not
said officially that LeShoure is out for the season, but it sure looks