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October 11, 2011
Q-and-A: Illinois coach Ron Zook
Going into this season, Zook had a 28-45 mark, including a 16-32 mark in the Big Ten, in six years, with just two bowl appearances. Adding more doubt about his future was that the athletic director who hired him, Ron Guenther, retired over the summer and was replaced by Mike Thomas, who had been AD at Cincinnati.
Zook has forged ahead and is in the midst of one of the best seasons in school history.
Coming off a 41-20 drubbing of Indiana, the Fighting Illini are off to a 6-0 start, the school's best since 1951. Saturday, Illinois welcomes a struggling Ohio State program that is 3-3 and has lost two in a row following a colossal collapse at Nebraska. After that are trips to Purdue and Penn State, which means the Fighting Illini could be 9-0 entering their bye week.
The good times weren't rolling for Zook in 2009. Coming off a 3-9 season, his fourth losing record in five seasons, Zook looked to be in trouble. But he made some bold moves in overhauling his staff, hiring Paul Petrino to coordinate the offense and Vic Koenning to oversee the defense. The moves have paid off.
[Huguenin: A closer look at all 13 unbeaten teams]
Illinois went 7-6 last season, capping the campaign with a victory over Baylor in the Texas Bowl. And this season has been even better.
Zook spoke to Rivals.com about a number of subjects in the midst of Illinois' stunning success.
Did you expect the team to be this good?
What's the most surprising aspect of the team?
Does this team have a chance to be as good as the 2007 squad that played in the Rose Bowl?
Could Scheelhaase be the best quarterback you have had at Illinois?
[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase]
Looking back, how important was your staff shakeup after the 2009 season?
With a new athletic director, do you feel like you are auditioning for your job?
How important is the Big Ten Network to your recruiting?
Do you like the breakdown of the Big Ten divisions?
[Y! Sports Shop: Show your school colors with college football team gear]
You often are labeled a good recruiter. Do you like that label or does it bother you?
You have the rare perspective of having coached in the SEC and the Big Ten. Do you think the SEC really is faster than the Big Ten?
How do you feel about the Big Ten finally extending its schedule into Thanksgiving weekend and December with the league title game?
"And we have to win our bowl games. There is no question. We didn't do our part in the Rose Bowl in '08. We have to win our bowls, and playing later in the year will help the conference."
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