Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer has yet to be cleared to return to the playing field, according to head coach Bret Bielema, leaving his status for Saturday’s game against Indiana in question.
“We were hopeful that he was going to get involved a little bit on Wednesday but that got pushed back,” Bielema said. “He hasn’t officially been cleared.”
Bielema did note that he’s “kind of planning that way” in regard to Altmyer ultimately getting clearance later this week and becoming available, and that he would feel comfortable putting him on the field despite limited practice time.
Altmyer left last week’s comeback victory over Minnesota late in the fourth quarter with an injury, thrusting backup quarterback John Paddock into action where he delivered a remarkable 3-for-3, 85-yard performance to produce a game-winning drive.
“The way John handled it was just beyond great,” offensive coordinator Barry Lunney said earlier this week. “He came in with a great deal of poise and didn’t flinch and got the job done in a very special way.”
Should Altmyer be held out against the Hoosiers, it’ll almost certainly be Paddock who gets the starting nod.
“John has had a really good week,” Bielema said. “The way our guys responded was because of the way he’s played all fall.”
Paddock transferred into Illinois from Ball State for his sixth season of college football to provide the Illini an experienced backup behind Altmyer in case an injury did occur. That experience shined bright in his miraculous drive against the Gophers and will need to again should he get the start under center.
“He’s just really, really experienced,” Lunney said. “Nothing really surprises him, and nothing really fazes him.”
The Illini will look to position themselves just a game away from bowl eligibility against Indiana on Saturday at 11 a.m.