CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois running back Reggie Love III will be a game time decision if he will be able to go against the 5-1 Maryland. Linebacker and captain Tarique Barnes is also expected to be back for Saturday along with a few guys in the offensive line, some needed returners, as the Illini are coming off back to back conference losses.
Illinois head coach Bret Bielema says while they have new players this season starting for the first time, like quarterback Luke Altmyer and defensive back Miles Scott among others, he says the grace period of being new to seeing the field is over and he’s ready to see his team move forward from their 2-4 season.
“This is game 7 of the year and we shouldn’t have any newness to us,” Bielema said. “There’s going to be something that Maryland does offensively, defensively, that they’ve never done before, which will take everybody a moment to adjust to, but for the guys that have been playing now through game 7, like you have to get better. That’s been a kind of a rallying point to us. Like I get it, 2-4 isn’t where we want to be, but the fact of the matter is those losses are really double effective if we allow them to continue to perpetrate forward.”
The Illinois offensive line looks to be mostly back. The offensive line has been having some issues with injuries and left guard Josh Gesky and right guard Zy Crisler are both expected to be back against Maryland. Crisler went down with injury last game against Nebraska.
Bielema said there hasn’t been a consistent group, which is hurting the Illini offense, giving less time for quarterback Luke Altmyer, who has been sacked 23 times for a loss of 108 yards this season. Illinois o-line coach Bart Miller says there have been growing pains with true freshman and sophomores stepping into starting roles because of injuries.
“We’re dealing with a lot of injury issues right now, which every team is, that’s not an excuse, but to get our best five in to solidify at least the pocket,” Miller said. “There’s a little bit of a growing pain there. There is a frustration as we want instant success and there is a learning curve with some of those young guys that are playing different positions.”
Illinois kick off at 2:30 CT Saturday, October 14th at Maryland.