CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois running back Josh McCray hasn’t played since the season opener against Wyoming but the sophomore running back will likely be ready to go this weekend at Nebraska. McCray has been recovering from a knee injury and head coach Bret Bielema says he expects him to be available but added ‘it’s not a guarantee right now’ as of Monday.
“When we’re coming back from this, we’ve been very guided about how much we’ve let him do and where we’re at,” Bielema said. “We practiced a little bit yesterday (Sunday) but a lot of what we see on Saturday will be a byproduct of what we see today, Wednesday and Thursday to get to Saturday.”
McCray is coming off a standout true freshman season, running for 549 yards on 112 carries, both second on the team. Getting that type of caliber back in the rotation has offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. excited about what he brings.
“To get somebody with that experience back in the fold from a game planning standpoint and an offensive standpoint, it’d be a real positive thing for us,” Lunney Jr. said. “I’m sure that’s a lonely world, I’ve mentioned that before, when these young men go through these injuries. And they miss significant time, that’s a lonely world for them to be in. And he’s really committed himself to attacking that in his recovery from his injury and he’s put himself close to making an impact on our offensive team.”
Paving the way for the nation’s leading running back Chase Brown has been the Illini offensive line. Alex Palczewski, Julian Pearl, Isaiah Adams, Zy Crisler and Alex Pihlstrom are the starting five but Jordyn Slaughter has been in the rotation as well.
“It takes a little adjustment, because obviously you’re not fully starting,” Slaughter said. “Like you’re not taking 100 reps a game, but when you’re called upon you go out there and do your job. Coach B has kind of implemented that around the whole team.”
“Jordyn Slaughter’s value is worth it’s weight in gold,” Illinois head coach Bret Bielema said. “He’s the best sixth man in football or basketball that I’ve ever seen. He really brings a lot of really good value that allows us to sub in Zy a little bit, as well as other positions.”
No. 17 Illinois visits Nebraska Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in a nationally televised game on ABC.