Illinois middle linebacker Martez Wilson apparently doesn't share in the rest of the concern outside the locker room over a defense that returns five starters when Illinois meets Missouri (2:30 p.m., ESPN) Saturday in the season opener at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Illinois middle linebacker Martez Wilson plans to "unleash the dogs.''
Of course, Wilson doesn't lack for confidence, as evidenced by his nickname: Grande Dos (he wears No. 2). He also apparently doesn't share in the rest of the concern outside the locker room over a defense that returns five starters when Illinois meets Missouri (2:30 p.m., ESPN) Saturday in the season opener at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Remember, the Tigers gained 549 total yards, including 226 yards on the ground, in a 52-42 victory last season. While Wilson and his teammates might be confident, Illini fans think the high-powered offense better get ready to carry the load.
"We don't let that bring us down,'' Wilson said. "We look at it as motivation. We're definitely going to put on a show. They say we don't have any pressure from our ends. They say we can't stop the run. Game one against Missouri, we're going to show the world.''
After losing six of his top 10 tacklers from last season, co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch wonders what he's got.
"If I'm a fan and watch a team, I will have questions,'' said Disch. "We have to hold up our end of the bargain. People know we've got a chance to be really good on offense. The question is what we do on defense. That's a motivator for our guys.''
According to the depth chart released Monday, Illinois filled the remaining questions in the lineup. Nate Bussey, a converted safety, is the third linebacker, joining Wilson and outside linebacker Ian Thomas. Junior Garrett Edwards starts at strong safety. Senior defensive tackle Sirod Williams is listed as a starter ahead of sophomore Corey Liuget, although they will split time with Josh Brent at the two spots.
Coach Ron Zook will announce Brent's status during his weekly press conference Tuesday. Brent was suspended after a DUI arrest and driving on a suspended license in February. He served one month in the Champaign County jail.
INJURY REPORT: The playing status of senior running back Daniel Dufrene remained in doubt after he didn't practice Monday because of a sprained ankle suffered Wednesday during a scrimmage.
"It's probably doubtful,'' Zook said. "If he practices tomorrow, then I would say it's probable. It's game week. Everybody seems to get healthy on game week.''
The Illini have plenty of depth at running back. Sophomore Jason Ford would likely take the bulk of Dufrene's carries.
BASKETBALL: Former Illinois basketball star Deron Williams can still stop traffic, such as Friday afternoon on the Illinois campus, when "he shut the whole Green Street down,'' said Illini assistant coach Jerrance Howard. Or when Williams saw a pickup game at a fraternity house.
"He parked the car, walked up and said, 'I got next,' '' Howard said. "They went nuts.''
Williams returned to campus last weekend for a charity dinner and golf outing. He also spent time with the Illini, working out with the team and playing informal games. Illinois also benefited from Williams' appearance this summer at an AAU tournament in Las Vegas. It doesn't hurt having a gold medal winner and NBA superstar in your corner.
"It's huge for Illinois,'' Howard said, "to see Deron sitting next to me or coach (Bruce) Weber.
"Walking into the gym, it sends a presence that Illinois basketball is serious and really wants you. He asked me what games to go see. I didn't have to beg him.''
VOLLEYBALL: Illinois' No. 8 national ranking in the coaches poll is its highest since a No. 6 ranking in the preseason poll in 1993. The Illini (2-0) face Florida State, New Mexico State and an Italian club team in Las Cruces, N.M., this weekend. Illinois' home opener is Sept. 11 vs. Cincinnati, the team the Illini defeated to reach the Sweet 16 last season.
Freshman outside hitter Tayler Onion, a Rushville High School graduate from Industry, is a walk-on who has yet to play.
IN OTHER NEWS: Chicago Morgan Park High School junior guard Wayne Blackshear's unofficial visit to Louisville this weekend will be his second trip there, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Blackshear earlier said he would be a package deal with Chicago De La Salle forward Mike Shaw. Blackshear listed his other top teams as Illinois, Texas, Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Marquette and Memphis. . .
When UCLA plays at Illinois in women's soccer Friday, the Bruins are led by Jillian Ellis, the coach who first guided the Illinois program. . . .
John Supinie can be reached Johnsupinie@aol.com.