Illinois notebook: Dimke gets the call against Indiana
Considered the heir apparent for the vacant placekicker duties when he arrived on campus in June, freshman Derek Dimke first failed to win playing time during Camp Rantoul.
Coach Ron Zook named redshirt freshman Matt Eller as the starter two days before the season opener, and Eller handled field goals and kickoffs for the first month.
But Zook kept juggling the lineup on kickoffs. Dimke, the former Rockford Boylan star, got the call Saturday against Indiana. He sent the opening kickoff to the Indiana 5 and handled the jitters of his debut during Illinois' 55-13 victory over the Hoosiers.
"I was just waiting for coach to call my number and help out the team whenever I could, if it was this year, next year or a couple years down the road,'' Dimke said. "It was the best experience of my life.''
Zook wanted better accuracy on kickoffs after replacing Eller with Mike Cklamovski during the win at Michigan. Cklamovski's job went up for grabs after he yanked two kickoffs out of bounds in the loss to Minnesota.
"After last week, we decided we would give Derek a shot,'' Zook said. "He had five or six kickoffs. It's going to help him. Now you've got a little competition there, too. Competition is good for everybody.''
Eller missed one of his eight extra-point kicks against the Hoosiers.
Illinois wide receiver Will Judson learned early in the afternoon that Illinois would go long on the first play on offense. With Illinois expecting Indiana safeties to bite on play action, the Illini planned to go deep to Judson.
It worked. The 60-yard play moved the ball to the Indiana 1. Illinois scored one play later and never trailed.
"I knew that was the play,'' Judson said. "I was thinking about that all day, trying to visualize myself catching a TD. Unfortunately, I got tackled at the 1.''
The big news between Illinois and Indiana last season centered around a basketball player who first committed to Illinois, then changed his mind and played for the Hoosiers. But Eric Gordon didn't meet mean much to the Illini football team.
"It wasn't something to write on the chalkboard,'' said Illini middle linebacker Brit Miller.
Yet the series between Illinois and Indiana is lopsided with the Illini holding a 42-20-3 advantage, but the Illini referred to it as a rivalry after Indiana won three of the last four games before Illinois scored a 27-14 win at Bloomington in the Big Ten Conference opener last season. It was the first victory under coach Ron Zook in three tries against the Hoosiers.
"We looked forward to playing Indiana last year,'' Miller said. "We were hyped about it. We hadn't beat them since Zook got here. We were real riled up about it when we played at Indiana. I'm sure they're looking for a little payback from last season.''
Miller was the lone Illini representative named to the mid-season All-America team selected by analyst Phil Steele. Miller was listed as the third-string.
Other Big Ten players chosen were running back Javon Ringer of Michigan State; receiver Eric Decker of Minnesota; offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley, kick returner Derrick Williams, defensive lineman Aaron Maybin and linebacker Navarro Bowman of Penn State; cornerback Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio State; and punter Zoltan Mesko of Michigan.
- Illinois' captains for the game against Indiana were receiver Arrelious Benn, quarterback Juice Williams, defensive tackle David Lindquist and Miller.
- Former Illinois linebacker J Leman must have done well in his first appearance with the Big Ten Network last weekend, when he worked on the cable channel's gameday set at the Michigan State-Northwestern game. Leman worked the network's pregame shows again Saturday.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.