DB Marc Jackson

2002 Statistics

Coach: Ron Turner
31-38, 6 years
2002 Record: 5-7
vs. Missouri LOST 20-33
at Southern Miss LOST 20-23
at Minnesota LOST 10-31
at Penn State LOST 7-18
at Wisconsin WON 37-20
at Northwestern WON 31-24

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

Following an outstanding 10-2 record in 2001, a highly-touted Illini (this site's preseason #23) bounced to earth in 2002, finishing with a 5-7 record. Instant karma came home to roost for Illinois -- all the breaks that seemed to go their way in 2001 suddenly started to disappear. Early-season losses to Missouri and San Jose State destroyed any carryover momentum from the previous year, and the entire season was a struggle. Yet, the Illini beat Purdue and Wisconsin, and took eventual national champion Ohio State into overtime, so the season didn't represent a total bust for 2003 outlook purposes.

Beutjer back is a big plus, and the running game will be OK if Davis, Haywood or Virgil can take up the load left by Harris. Based on experience and Illinois' offensive style, Beutjer would have to be odds-on favorite for All-Big Ten QB honors, but that's assuming Turner can/should dig up somebody to catch the ball.

The Illini defense sagged last season, allowing opponents to move the ball both on the ground and in the air pretty much at will (especially in those costly non-conference losses to Missouri and San Jose State), which set the disappointing tone. The defense wasn't awful in any one area, just somewhat sub-par in most of them. The holes in the Illini roster are too many to allow for a run for the Roses. But there's clearly more talent in Champaign than at the league's true bottom-dwellers (Indiana, Northwestern and Michigan State). That alone should keep Illinois from taking any real dive in the standings. A defensive leader will emerge, or this team will suffer.

Getting ahead of such rivals as Purdue, Wisconsin and Minnesota will be the main challenge for the Illini in 2003. Look for Turner and crew to be partly successful here, get their noses over .500, and earn their way back into holiday bowl action this season.

Projected 2003 record: 5-7
OL Bucky Babcock
FB Carey Davis
SS Marc Jackson
RB Ibrahim Halsey
QB - 3.5 DL - 3.5
RB - 3 LB - 3.5
WR - 2 DB - 3
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Jon Beutjer, 327-193-11, 2511 yds., 21 TD's

Rushing: Carey Davis, 59 att., 319 yds., 0 TD's

Receiving: Carey Davis, 29 rec., 201 yds., 0 TD's

Scoring: Morris Virgil, 3 TD's, 18 pts.

Punting: Matt Minnes, 33 punts, 37.7 avg.

Kicking: John Gockman, 5-7 FG, 15 pts.

Tackles: Marc Jackson, 67 tot., 42 solo

Sacks: Derrick Strong, 5 sacks

Interceptions: Travis Williams, 1 for 30 yds.

Kickoff returns: Morris Virgil, 16 ret., 20.8 avg.

Punt returns: Brian Brosnan, 1 ret., 14.0 avg.


OFFENSE: Antoineo Harris-RB, Walter Young-WR, Aaron Moorehead-WR, Greg Lewis-WR, Dave Diehl-OG, Tony Pashos-OT, Peter Christofilakos-K (NFL), Brandon Lloyd-WR (NFL)
DEFENSE: Jamie Hanton-DT, Brett Kautter-DT, Jerry Schumacher-LB, Eugene Wilson-CB, Michael Hall-CB

By Joe Howley
Royal Oak, Mich.

Coach Ron Turner made his name tutoring NFL quarterbacks, and (bar injury) he will have his next one coming off the 2003 assembly line in senior Jon Beutjer.

After sitting out a year following his transfer from Iowa, Beutjer led the Big Ten with 228.3 passing yards-per-game. Turner's adapted 'West Coast' passing scheme was ideal for Beutjer. He'll be backed up by fellow senior Dustin Ward. Ward grasps the system, but Beutjer's health is essential for Illini success.

The Illini offensive line did a decent job in 2002, giving Beutjer time to throw and opening up some sizable holes for the running game. They will have to operate without the services of two All-Big Ten linemen this time. But third year starters Sean Bubin and Bucky Babcock both return to make this a sizeable strength. Bubin has been a mainstay at tackle since his sophomore season, while Babcock has been one of the top guards in the conference since 2001. However, look for Babcock to move into the tackle position in order to fill in for the departed Tony Pashos. In any West Coast scheme, play-action, pass-blocking and mobility are key. While the OL may be a bit undersized with only one regular at or over 300 pounds, they can and will move well to provide all forms of protection similarly well.

In the backfield, it may be a case of running back by committee led by senior FB Carey Davis and junior Morris Virgil. Davis (5.4 yards-per-rush) unfortunately is also the team's leading returning receiver with 29 catches. He may get a shot at tailback to replace the graduated Antoineo Harris. His role and success are key for any offensive continuity. No running in the WC means run-pass decisions for defenders are predictable instead of well-disguised - pass, pass, pass. Replacing Harris' yardage at tailback will be a challenge, but junior Morris Virgil (if he can return from a broken leg suffered in 2002's fourth game) should be up to the task. Virgil saw limited action and gives the Illini a breakaway threat out of the backfield (and on kick runbacks, depending.) Look for several other viable candidates to get there shot at this position.

Junior TE Anthony McClellan is another key returning starter. Senior Kenny Boyle, similarly sized at 6-3 and 245, is also back. The two provide quality route-running and force opposing LBs to play on their heels, which in turn will open up the run, and both swing and screen passes.

The receiving corps, which helped QB Beutjer to his glittering numbers, was dismantled (by graduation and NFL early entry.) Senior Eric McGoey and sophomore Kendrick Jones are the only wideouts back with any game experience - and each caught only one pass in 2002! Juco transfer Kelvin Hayden and freshman Lonnie Hurst will be contenders for immediate playing time, just like several other qualified newcomers.

This has got to be Turner's major headache heading into the season. Beutjer appears primed for a big season in the air, but it won't happen if the receiving crew can't be rebuilt in a big hurry. The best will emerge and they will go from there. Stay tuned here for any development(s).

Some heavy work in the weight room is on tap during the off-season to build up some necessary OL bulk. Turner's offense values speed and agility, especially on the offensive line. Illini QBs, mainly Beutjer, were sacked 24 times in 2002 - not a glaring number considering the number of times they put the ball in the air. The Illini OL will hopefully give Beutjer and Co. more time to throw this year, since the receiving crew doesn't have established high-flyers to bail them out.


FB Carey Davis


Returning Starters in bold
QB Jon Beutjer-Sr Dustin Ward-Sr
FB Carey Davis-Sr Brad Haywood-Jr
RB Morris Virgil-Jr James Cooper-So
WR Kendrick Jones-So Jamaal Clark-Sr
WR Ade Adeyemo-Jr Mark Kornfeld-Jr
TE Anthony McClellan-Jr Estus Hood-Jr
OT Sean Bubin-Sr J.J. Simmons-Fr
OG Bryan Koch-Jr Mike Zande-Fr
C Duke Preston-Jr Dave Hilderbrand-Jr
OG Matt Maddox-Fr Kyle Schnettgoecke-So
OT Bucky Babcock-Jr Clark Collins-Jr
K John Gockman-Sr J.J. Tubbs-Sr



By Joe Howley
Royal Oak, Mich.

Five starters return among the Illini front-seven, giving Turner hope his defense will be more consistent (than in 2002, when momentary lapses cost Illinois big time, especially in Big Ten play). The DL is their most experienced defensive position, overall - three of four starters return. Appropriately named senior end Derrick Strong leads this talented group after bursting onto the 2002 scene, his first year as a starter. Strong, who is one of the more physically imposing defenders in the Big Ten, led the Illinois defense with 12 tackles-for-loss out of his 54 total tackles.

Illini coaches have a good problem - each position will be highly competitive heading into fall as a number of performers boast past starting experience. Joe Bevis and Antonio Mason will battle for one outside spot. Bevis brings two years of starting experience, but Mason made huge strides the second half of the season to make this position still competitive coming out of Spring ball. In the middle, Matt Sinclair and Mike Gawelek will look to fill Schumacher's big shoes (ranked among the top tacklers in school history.) While he earned eight starts at outside linebacker in 2002, Sinclair has the size and strength to play inside. The most hotly contested of the three linebacking positions will be at the other outside spot between Ty Myers, Winston Taylor and freshman Cyrus Garrett. Myers brings the most experience starting 18 games over the last two seasons. An Illini strength in 2003, regardless of who starts.

Senior safety Marc Jackson is their leading returning tackler. CB Travis Williams (an astounding 30 pass breakups as a freshman!) is the only other returning starter in the secondary. Other than those two, the Illini secondary will have to be retooled. The defensive backfield is a bit thin after Jackson and Williams. The press-types of coverage Illinois likes to employ ostensibly place a premium on man-coverage abilities, and last year's reserves now have to (and should well) step in. The secondary is clearly another spot where freshmen or JUCO recruits will see instant playing time. The question(s) here will be answered as spring turns to summer. This secondary played at a mediocre level, so new blood always has a place in any schemes of improvement.


DE Derrick Strong


Returning Starters in bold
DE Derrick Strong-Sr Scott Moss-So
DT Aaron Hodges-Sr Charles Gilstrap-Sr
DT Jeff Ruffin-Sr Mike Maloney-Jr
DE Mike O'Brien-Sr Brian Schaefering-Jr
LB Joe Bevis-Sr Antonio Mason-So
LB Mike Gawelek-Jr Matt Sinclair-Jr
LB Ty Myers-Sr Winston Taylor-Sr
CB Sharriff Gillon-Fr Darnell Ray-Fr
CB Christian Morton-Sr Anthony Longe-So
SS Marc Jackson-Sr Eric McGoey-Sr
FS Travis Williams-So Taman Jordan-Jr
P Matt Minnes-Jr Steve Weatherford-So




The Illini lost standout kicker Peter Christofilakos to NFL early entry, but senior John Gockman is back after serving as the team's long-distance specialist in 2002. Gockman was 5-of-7 on FGs, including 5-of-5 in the critical 40-49 yard range, so the Illini kicking game will remain effective.

The Illini will also be strong on kickoff returns, especially if Virgil is back healthy. In 2002, Virgil had a 20.8 average on 16 returns pre-injury and gave Illinois a game-breaking threat.

Junior punter Matt Minnes is back, but his average of 37.7 yards/kick was among the lower marks in the Big Ten. Sophomore Steve Weatherford will put some heat on Minnes if his performance doesn't improve. The Illini will also have to find new punt returners, since the departed Lloyd and Wilson handled those duties. Capable prospects should equal varied success as experience is gained.


A pair of quality backs have slowly been answering the question at running back. Freshman E.B. Halsey and junior Morris Virgil are competing for the top spot and, in doing so, are making each other that much better. Either one will be a good fit in the Illini offense - our bet is that it will be Virgil...A thin group of receivers leaves a wide-open space for youngsters/newcomers to shine. Once JUCO transfer Kelvin Hayden arrives, he will make waves in the passing attack, especially with a quality QB like Beutjer throwing him the ball. Coaches also like the potential they see in redshirt freshman Melvin Bryant. He is a BIG target (6'5", 220 lbs) with great hands. Turner says once he learns to play like a receiver, and not run everyone over like a tight end, he will be a great weapon. Somebody needs emerge in fall practice, because the Illini offense was sluggish and lacked the big play this spring.

Coach Ron Turner has been impressed by the play of the defense throughout spring ball and will bank on that being the strength of this team… In an effort to take advantage of his athleticism, as well as shore up a thin secondary, senior Eric McGoey was converted to safety during the off-season and has performed well in the switch. However, he will not vanish from his receiving duties, as he will be a much-publicized two-way threat… DL Charles Gilstrap has made vast improvement in his game this spring and gives the coaches a little more reason to confide in their D-line… Bet on junior Matt Sinclair to win the job at middle linebacker this fall. He is strong, agile, and has that tenacity that has given Illinois a special reputation as a linebacker factory throughout the years.

Senior PK John Gockman has had a pleasing spring and has showed more consistency in his kicks with each passing day… Punter Steve Weatherford appears to be ahead of Matt Minnes, but unless one punter exceeds the other, expect the Illini to use both…Weatherford might be seeing double-duty this fall - but not punting and kicking. Coach Ron Turner says he will be punting as well providing the Illini depth at the safety position(s). Kedrick Jones, Christian Morton, and Halsey will handle the punt returns