Juice Williams is handling the role of sharing the quarterback job well, coach Ron Zook said Tuesday. Zook wants to see how practice goes before formulating a plan for how Williams and redshirt freshman Jacob Charest will divide the QB job against Michigan on Saturday.
``They'll both play,'' Zook said. ``Juice understands that. Jacob gave us some things [at Purdue] that I'm excited about. The ball came out of his hand quick, and he stuck it in there well.''
Zook said he's helping Williams regain his confidence amid the shocking disappointment of Illinois' 1-6 start.
``No one saw this coming,'' the coach said. ``But the way he's handled, it, I'm not sure there a lot of adults who could have handled it as well. Juice wants to win. I told him, `Everybody's piling on you. You somehow have to separate that stuff.' It's a confidence issue. He has to overcome that, and that's something we as a coaching staff have to help him do. He's done it before, he can do it again.''
Ron Zook will be back as Illinois coach in 2010,
``Let's put one thing to rest,'' athletic director Ron Guenther said Saturday at halftime of the Illinois-Purdue game. ``There will be some changes, but there won't be a change at the top.''
``We're still going to evaluate [the program at the end of the year],'' Guenther said. ``But I think it was unfair to start jumping [on Zook] at the end of [his] fifth year.''
Guenther broke his silence to confirm a Big Ten Network report saying Zook would be back. Guenther said the subject came up in a conversation Friday with Big Ten Network analyst Glen Mason, who is scheduled to meet with Guenther for a BTN project.
As late as Thursday, Guenther had maintained through Illini spokesman Kent Brown that no decision had been made, and that the program and Zook would be evaluated at the end of the season.
``Ron Guenther is emphatic that Ron Zook will return next year,'' Mason reported. ``Ron Guenther is disappointed like most Illini. He is aware that there are problems, but his belief is that Ron Zook is capable of correcting those problems, and that all he needs is time, and he deserves the time to correct them.''
With Illinois' offense sputtering mightily, Ron Zook said Monday he will go with backup Eddie McGee at quarterback vs Michigan State Saturday (11 a.m., BTN) and sit down four-year starter Juice Williams.
McGee, a fourth-year junior who came to Illinois with Williams, led Illinois to its lone victory this season, a 45-17 rout of Illinois State, when Williams was sidelined by a strained quadriceps muscle after just two plays.
``Believe me, this is not all on Juice,'' Zook said on his radio show on WDWS in Champaign Monday. ``The poor guy has at times played extremely well, but the thing you try to do in athletics is you're trying to get a spark.''
No one needs a spark more than the Illinois offense. The Illini, who were expected to be a scoring machine led by Williams and receiver Arrelious Benn, have managed only three touchdowns in their three losses, and all of them have come in the fourth quarter when the game was no longer in doubt.
``This is not a knee-jerk reaction,'' Zook said. ``This is a lot of thought and what-if, what-if, what-if. But the bottom line is, we're in a part of our schedule now where we've got to go play.''