With summer upon us, the University of Illinois campus is quiet right now, with the students that are around taking their summer classes. So, with the lull in activity, I thought it would be a good idea to ask a few questions, with hopefully some favorable answers. First question: Will the Illini be any better this year in football? The answer to this is, I certainly hope so! This is Ron Zook's third season as coach, and has been evidenced by the last two recruiting classes, the man can flat-out recruit. This season's class is particularly good, with players such as Arrelious Benn and Martez Wilson spurning more successful programs for a chance to further advance the Illinois program, one that has been mired in the mud for a few years now. Most of the players have been on campus all summer long, which gives them a chance to bond with one another and get in shape for training camp, which is a little over a month away. The fans seem to think that the Illini will be better as well, given the status of ticket sales over at Memorial Stadium, a.k.a., the "construction zone". The "construction prices", as the DIA has labeled them, are going better than expected, and as of earier this week, the extensions in the horseshoe have sold out, leaving seats on the east and west sides still available. Coach Zook has been promoting the program all summer long, and judging by the attendance at each event, is making an impact in marketing the football program. So, what do you think? Will the Illini be better in '07? What will their record be? I'm interested in knowing what everyone's views are.
Question #2: Will the incoming freshman for Bruce Weber make an immediate impact, or are they still a year away? It is clear that this is one of Weber's best recruiting classes since he has been at Illinois, but with the "big name recruit" still absent, can he continue the success with what he has? Last weekend at the IBCA All-Star Game at the Shirk Center in Bloomington, four of the five recruits played as high schoolers one final time, with big man Bill Cole garnering MVP honors. Mike Tisdale, Demetri McCamey, and "His Airness's heir", Jeff Jordan, are also preparing for life at the next level. The fifth signee, Quinton Watkins, is also taking classes this summer on campus, and the guys are all beginning to get to know one another. The status of Jamar Smith is still up in the air, but for returnees Shaun Pruitt, Chester Frazier, Calvin Brock and Trent Meacham, among others, the balance will be interesting. Here's hoping that sophmores Brian Carlwell and Richard Semrau have healed from their injuries, and with Semrau probably receiving a medical redshirt, the future once again begins to brighten for the Fighting Illini. Oh sure, we didn't get Gordon, but we got the next best thing, Jordan, the kid who was in "Space Jam", and also probably knows a little about the game from his susperstar father. So, will the Illini be better, or not?
Question #3: Will volleyball once again make it into the forefront of discussion? Don Hardin's Illini spikers have endured a couple of tough seasons, but with a great recruiting class coming in, things are looking up for this sport, gone largely unnoticed over the past several years. Sure, it's not nearly as popular or star-studded as the other sports on campus, but they do have a following, and with a little success, may get some of the bandwagoners back. The simplest way for this to occur is to bring the kids out to a game, or better yet, when the DIA has their picture day this year for football, the womens' soccer and volleyball teams are also out there to meet and greet fans. Who knows? With a little exposure, this, too could become popular once again.