Chicago Sun-Times
With Sun-Times sports reporter Herb Gould

Recently in Houston Bates Category

          All quiet on the Midwestern front.

            While bemoaning the ``most [injuries] I've ever been around in my entire life,'' Illinois coach Tim Beckman said Monday that it's too early to tell which wounded Illini might be available for Louisiana Tech on Saturday (7 p.m., BTN).

            It's a list that includes third-year starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (ankle); key offensive lineman, center Graham Pocic (knee); leading rusher Josh Ferguson (concussion); key wideout Darius Millines (shoulder), middle linebacker Houston Bates (ankle) and kicker Nick Immekus (leg muscle).

            ``I can't say anybody [in that group will return] for sure,'' Beckman said. ``That'll have to be determined as we go through Tuesday and Wednesday'' practices.

            An educated guess is that Scheelhaase, Ferguson and Bates are the most promising, Millines  is the most questionable, and Pocic and Immekus are somewhere in between. But that's only a guess.

            If Beckman sat some dinged players vs. FCS Charleston Southern to let them heal for the long haul, that would make a lot of sense. But if the Illini coach didn't want to say that publicly, that would make sense, too.

            ``We're not being cautious with anybody,'' Beckman said. ``[Scheelhaase] just wasn't ready. We're not going to put anybody out there that's not ready.''

            LA. DI DA: There's no question that Louisiana Tech will be a major test for Illinois' defense. The Bulldogs (2-0), who are favored to repeat as WAC champions, are averaging 56 points a game, third in the nation, and have scored 14 touchdowns on 21 possessions in their first two games. Their opener at Texas A&M was postponed by Hurricane Isaac.

            ``They've had a tremendous amount of yards after contact,'' Beckman said. ``They're making a lot of people miss. They've had 14 touchdowns in 14 [red-zone] possessions. They're No. 1 in the red zone in the country. They've been very successful.''

            QUICK COUNTS: Considering that La. Tech has allowed 86 points in wins over Houston (56-49) and Rice (56-37), Illinois' offense, which has scored four touchdowns in its two games against FBS opponents, will need to shift into high gear this week.Healthy or not.

            * This game features sheepskins as well as pigskin. Illinois has 10 players who already have earned their degrees, tied for fifth in the nation. La. Tech has nine, for ninth.

            * Illinois' MVPs in its 44-0 rout of Charleston Southern were receiver Ryan Lankford (offense), linebacker Mason Monheim ( defense), kicker Taylor Zalewski (special teams) and punt returner Tommy Davis (special teams).




llini linebacker Houston Bates is the Big Ten freshman of the week, conference  officials announced. The redshirt freshman from Covington, La., had two tackles for a loss, including a sack, and recovered a fumble in Illinois' 33-15 victory over Arkansas State Saturday.
``I wanted to to exert some energy and I did,'' Bates said after the game. ``I'm definitely in the system now. I'm ready to play.''
Bates, who's listed behind sophomore Jonathan Brown at weakside linebacker, is part of a necessity-dictated youth movement in the Illinois linebacker corps.
``I've been saying since spring I couldnt wait to see him play,'' coach Ron Zook said. ``He loves to hit.''

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