There's a lot of news each day. Illini Inquirer will try to make it easier to digest each weekday morning with the Daily Digest. Today, get up to speed on Kofi Cockburn's NIL deal, Illinois football and Wisconsin injury updates, Bret Bielema's take on Gray Ghost uniforms, a promotion for a former Illini assistant coach and Ayo Dosunmu's next step with the Chicago Bulls.
Illinois athletics on Monday announced Kofi Cockburn and several other Illini student-athletes have agreed to a name, image and likeness deal with Decatur-based T/CCI Manufacturing. The deal was led by Kara Demirjian Huss and Richard Demirjian, who are significant donors to Illini athletics and whose names are on the Illini indoor golf facility and the soccer/track and field stadium.
Cockburn said in a statement: “I’m just excited to work within the community. The opportunity to use my basketball platform to help everyone grow and succeed makes me appreciate where I am and everything we can do here. This is going to be really special. So much is changing today in our environment, our workplace, and our mental wellness and to be part of the message of growth and advancement is an opportunity of a lifetime."
Demirjian-Huss said in a statement: "We strive to strengthen our community at every level within our business mode. Of course, we love Illinois, and the chance for T/CCI to actively engage Fighting Illini student-athletes for the benefit of our industry, workforce development, and community and social development is exciting and remarkable."
Illini athletics director Josh Whitman said in a statement: “This partnership, between an industry leader and our student-athletes, is groundbreaking in many ways. This is exactly the kind of mutually beneficial relationship we hoped would develop between our local business community and our Fighting Illini student-athletes, where important and worthwhile causes are promoted through the visibility and platform enjoyed by our student-athletes as members of our athletic program. I am grateful to Richard, Kara, and the Demirjian family and am proud of the work our student-athletes will do on their behalf."
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Illinois head coach Bret Bielema provided a few injury updates at Monday’s weekly media availability before Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff (BTN) against Wisconsin.
- LB Jake Hansen and CB Devon Witherspoon still aren’t a certainty to play after missing the last two games, but Bielema said “they’re a lot closer this week than they were last week. The intent is to have those guys with us.”
- OLB Seth Coleman is “probable” for Saturday’s game, Bielema said. Coleman — who has 21 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery this season — left in the first half of Saturday’s 24-14 win against Charlotte and returned to the sidelines in street clothes and a walking boot.
- OLB Isaiah Gay limped off the field in the second half on Saturday but was cleared to return and will be available to play this week, Bielema said. Gay this season has 10 tackles, 2.0 TFLs, 0.5 sacks and two quarterback hits.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst also provided a few key injury updates on Monday.
- QB Graham Mertz is listed as questionable. Mertz was taken to the hospital on Saturday to get evaluated for a chest injury suffered during a 38-17 loss to Michigan.
- TE Jake Ferguson also is listed as questionable after also suffering a chest injury. Ferguson is considered one of the best tight ends in the Big Ten and has 114 career receptions for 1,276 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Bottom line: The Illini (2-4, 1-2 Big Ten) could catch a break if Wisconsin (1-3, 0-2 Big Ten), which has just 74 points through four games, is without its starting quarterback and one of its top receiving targets.
Illinois football will not wear Gray Ghost uniforms for homecoming, Bret Bielema said on Monday. The Illini had worn the gray alternative uniforms for the previous seven years, first appearing for homecoming 2014 to mark the 90th anniversary of Red Grange’s historic homecoming performance 262 total yards, six touchdowns) against Michigan in the Memorial Stadium dedication on Oct. 18, 1924. The gray alludes to Grantland Rice’s nickname given to Grange, "Gray Ghost," in a 1924 poem.
Bielema said: “I obviously have a tremendous amount of respect for who [Grange] is and what he stood for and what he represents, but I would say one thing I’ve carried forward in every game this year is the orange helmet. I think in today’s world, the ability to identify an identity with a football team is very important. That’s why our orange helmets have been a constant and will be a constant for us moving forward.”
Illinois running back Chase Brown was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Week. The Illini sophomore running back ran for a career-high 257 yards in Saturday’s 24-14 win over Charlotte on Saturday, the fourth-most rushing yards in a single game in Illini history. Brown is the second Illini to earn Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week this season after QB Artur Sitkowski earned the honor after the Illini’s Week Zero win over Nebraska.
- Brown’s 257 yards is the third-most by a running back this season behind only Ohio State’s TreVeyon Henderson (277 vs. Tulsa) and Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III (264 vs. Northwestern).
- Brown’s 257 yards were the most by a running back coached by Bret Bielema.
- Brown’s 80-yard touchdown run is tied for the 10th longest run in Illini history.
Illinois offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said of Brown: “He brings back some juice there, obviously some fresh legs. He’s fast, he runs physical and he’s played a lot of football. Not just the running game but the passing game. Everything that we do, it’s a kid who has played a lot of football at that position and that brings a lot to the table. Very excited to have him back in there. Obviously had a great day. Super happy for him, the O-line, the offense, everybody."
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Former Illinois defensive tackles coach Al Davis was promoted from an analyst role to an assistant role, Tigers head coach Eliah Drinkwitz announced. Mizzou fired first-year defensive line coach Jethro Franklin after a 2-3 start to the season, which includes an 0-3 start against power-five opponents. Davis will take over as defensive line coach.
Background: Davis played at Arkansas before joining Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks staff as a graduate assistant coach from 2014-16. He then spent three seasons at Hutchinson Community College as an assistant, associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator before Lovie Smith hired him as defensive tackles coach at Illinois in 2020. After Smith was fired, Davis joined Missouri as an analyst.
Thought bubble: Think Missouri misses Ryan Walters? The Tigers are allowing 38.0 points per game, among the worst in the country. Meanwhile, Walters — Missouri’s defensive coordinator from 2018-20 before joining Bret Bielema as defensive coordinator — is leading an Illini defense that is allowing 23.0 points per game.
Illinois basketball icon Ayo Dosunmuwill make his debut for the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday with a 7 p.m. tipoff against the Cavaliers at the United Center. This is the first of four preseason games for the Bulls, who tip off the regular season on Oct. 20 at the Detroit Pistons. The Bulls drafted Dosunmu, a 2021 consensus First Team All-American and a Chicago native, with the 38th overall pick (2nd round) in the 2021 NBA Draft.
What to watch: Dosunmu averaged 12.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals during Summer League action, but his role will be far more limited on the Bulls — if he earns a role on the NBA club. The Bulls beefed up their guard rotation this offseason by signing Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Demar DeRozan to add to a young core of Zach LaVine and Coby White. Dosunmu likely will be competing Troy Brown Jr. and maybe Devon Dotson for a small role on a team attempting to make the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2017. But with White likely out for a few more weeks after offseason shoulder surgery, Dosunmu will earn some opportunities to impress, which likely will come by playing hard and focusing on his defensive effort.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan said, via the Chicago Sun-Times: ‘‘I’ve been really impressed with [Dosunmu]. Not about the way necessarily he’s played — and he’s played well — [but] just his disposition, just his competitiveness, just his mindset, the way he throws himself in there and the way he competes.
‘‘He’s really, really crafty at being able to get by people and around people and to the rim. I think his three-point shooting will improve, as all guys do up here, over time. …‘‘But … I love guys with that kind of mentality. You know, talking about Alex [Caruso], talking about [Dosunmu], there’s a toughness and a competitiveness to those guys that they’re just not afraid. I think Ayo’s got that.’’
Coach quotes: What head coach Bret Bielema said about the Wisconsin game
Coordinator Quotes: What Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters said ahead of Wisconsin
Coordinator Quotes: What Illinois offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said ahead of Wisconsin
- CBB:Five dark-horse picks to make deep 2022 NCAA Tournament run
- 2024 hoops recruit from Wisconsin plans visit to Illinois
- 2023 4-star QBdiscusses Illini involvement in recruitment
Have a great Tuesday! Can we take a longer break from Facebook? That was kinda nice.