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Posted on Mon, Jul 27, 2009 : 11:35 a.m.

Illinois searching for a running game

By Dave Birkett

With Juice Williams back at quarterback and Arrelious Benn one of the nation’s top receivers, the biggest question surrounding Illinois’ offense this year is running back.

Illinois led the Big Ten in rushing in 2006-07, but fell to fifth in the conference during last year’s 5-7 season. Coach Ron Zook said at Big Ten media day Monday he feels “very good” about his team’s running game, where four backs are in the mix for playing time, entering the season.

“I just don’t know if you can have too many running backs,” Zook said. “If one of those guys take over and becomes the guy, then that’s fine. But right now we feel like we have four guys that can all play and all win for us.”

Senior Daniel Dufrene enters fall No. 1 on the depth chart, but sophomores Jason Ford, Mikel Leshoure and Troy Pollard all could start by season's end.

“I don’t know that you have to have a running back that comes in and takes over and is the guy,” Zook said. “Daniel Dufrene has had a great offseason. He’s had a great spring. He’s still shown signs that he can be the guy. If you remember, I think it was really the fifth game before Rashard (Mendenhall) really took over and kind of solidified that position.”