Freshman backs Young, Ferguson off to running start at Illinois
Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson continued to show they aren't your typical freshman running backs in Illinois' scrimmage Sunday. Young ran for 58 yards on 14 carries and Ferguson had 54 yards on 11 carries, while senior rusher Jason Ford carried 10 times for 52 yards.
Quarterback Reilly O'Toole also looked precocious, completing 9 of 11 passes for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
``They look like they have a chance to be pretty good players,'' coach Ron Zook said.
One question about Ferguson, a speedster from Joliet Catholic, is whether his slender 5-10, 185-pound frame will stand up to the pounding runners take in the Big Ten.
``That's what I use these bad boys for. Speed,'' Ferguson said, patting his hands on his thighs in an indication that he intends to make people miss whenever possible.
At 6-0, 215 pounds, Young has better size, but will need to prove his durability after an injury-hindered high school career in Houston, one reason Illinois was able to land an intriguing prospect from a football-loving state like Texas.
Young, who's healthy now, said he feels groin and knee problems are behind him. If so, he has a big upside.
``When I was getting recruited, the coaches felt I could live up to the traditon that was made by Mikel [Leshoure] and Rashard [Mendenhall],'' Young said, mentioning two Illini backs who have moved on to the NFL. ``I have to work hard and live up to the expectations.''
The running-back job is Ford's to lose. But if the senior, who has a history of nagging ankle injuries, isn't ready to go, offensive coordinator Paul Petrino won't hesitate to turn to his young running backs.
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