Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 10/4/11

Since Ron Zook took over in 2005, the Illinois Fighting Illini are first in the Big Ten in rushing, not the Wisconsin Badgers (who are second). It’s a surprising stat, but a truthful one.

Senior weakside tackle Jeff Allen is yet another in a great line of OLs to come from Champaign to the NFL (Tony Pashos, David Diehl, Jon Asamoah, Brad Hopkins, Brandon Moore, J.P. Machado, and Allen’s case we’ll see if he makes the leap this April). The Illini switch guards and tackles given the play call. So there is no true right/left guards and tackles. This versatility will serves Illini OL well for the next level.

They all have experience playing multiple positions.

Allen, a 6-5. 315 behemoth from Chicago (King h.s.) describes his best characteristic as “being a four year starter, knowing the tempo of the game.” And in the preseason stated his main goal as “to be a constant leader.”

He’s helped paved the way for a solid ground attack that was ranked 14 in the nation heading into the in-state showdown with Northwestern. But in the Illini 38-35 victory over the Wildcats (Allen’s 39th consecutive start), it was the aerial assault. WR A.J. Jenkins set a school record with 268 receiving yards and QB Nathan Scheelhaase got his first 300 yard passing day. Actually, he was just nine yards shy of 400.

With Allen and company providing the protection up front, Scheelhaase has been able to go deep more often, saying to opposing secondaries “who’s house? Scheel’s Haase!”

Does his arm look stronger?

“It’s not like I’ve been doing curls every day in the back room trying to get my arm strong, it’s just me being more confident in knowing that I can put more behind the ball and knowing it’s going to be there,” Scheelhaase said of the more vertical element in the Illini passing game this season.

 

 

 

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