RANTOUL, Ill.– Illinois ran for 257 yards per game last season; only four Division I-A teams averaged more on the ground. Illinois threw for 168 yards per game last season; only 10 squads threw for fewer.
The imbalance wasn’t crippling, as the Fighting Illini finished 9-4 and spent New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl. But given the loss of star tailback Rashard Mendenhall, now a Pittsburgh Steeler, Illinois’ returning offense might be more problem than plus to start 2008.
“It’ll be rough,” tight end Michael Hoomanawanui said. “We’ve got three guys back there, but they’re not going to take Rashard’s spot right away. Maybe they’ll grow into it. But that was a guy that ran hard every play, had the moves and could run people over.”