Illini Injury Update: Sitkowski To Start at Virginia; Epstein Out & Illinois to Travel With 10-11 Wide Receivers

Illinois head coach Bret Bielema announced a starter at quarterback for the Illini’s first road game of the 2021 season.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

September 9, 2021

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Artur Sitkowski will get his second consecutive start at quarterback this weekend.

The transfer from Rutgers was confirmed as Illinois’ starting quarterback from Illini head coach Bret Bielema Thursday afternoon in his final media interview before his team plays at Virginia on Saturday (10 a.m., ACC Network).

Bielema reiterated that his plan for Illinois’ projected starter Brandon Peters has gone without delay as Peters has been active throughout practice this week. Peters suffered a serious shoulder injury in the first quarter of the 30-22 win over Nebraska in the season-opening win. Peters will be traveling with the team to Virginia (1-0) but Bielema said his playing status will be a “game-time decision”. Bielema had previously said Monday that Peters had not yet been cleared for contact and the Illini head coach did not clarify if that status had changed by Thursday.

In his first start at Illinois (1-1), Sitkowski completed just 22 of 42 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns in the 37-30 loss to Texas-San Antonio. Sitkowski also finished last weekend as the Illini’s second-leading rusher with 33 yards on six scrambling attempts.

“Brandon Peters, like I said the other day, has been practicing with us all week and will be a gametime decision," Bielema said Thursday afternoon. "Right now, Art will be our starting quarterback, but, obviously, the chance to get BP involved is exciting.”

Before the 2018 season, the Big Ten Conference announced schools will be able to have 74 players on the travel roster for road games in 2018, an increase of four players to account for the new roster rule that allows players to play in three games before being ineligible for a redshirt season.

Bielema has said tailbacks Chase Brown (unknown injury) and Chase Hayden will make the trip but senior Mike Epstein, the Illini’s leading rusher after the first two weeks, will not be traveling to Charlottesville, Va., after being physically unable to finish the loss to UTSA last weekend.

According to Bielema, Illinois may have the services of two outside wide receivers who have been missing with injuries in the first two games. Jafar Armstrong, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame who suffered an unknown injury in the final scrimmage of fall preseason camp, is expected to be active for the first time this season. Bielema said Brian Hightower, who suffered a “soft tissue injury” in preseason camp, is expected to be available for the game Saturday as well.

Bielema has previously said on Monday that starting defensive lineman Keith Randolph Jr. will not be available for the next few weeks after suffering a serious knee injury that will not require season-ending surgery.

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