Nov 30, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini kicker Taylor Zalewski (17) kicks a 51 yard field goal during the second quarter against the Northwestern Wildcats at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Jihad Ward and Taylor Zalewski Days Until Illinois Fighting Illini Season Opener

Welcome to our Countdown to Kickoff series!  In this series, we’ll do roster previews as we count down the days until the Illinois Fighting Illini August 30th season opener against Youngstown State.

Next up in the Countdown to Kickoff series is a pair of #17’s defensive lineman Jihad Ward and kicker Taylor Zalewski.

Zalewski joined the team as a freshman in 2011. After redshirting during the 2011 season, he became the kicker for the Fighting Illini for the past two seasons.

Last season, he nailed 12-of-17 field goals which included eight of his last ten attempts.

Jihad Ward joined the Fighting Illini as a three-star JUCO recruit out of Globe Tech in New York.

As a unit, this season is going to be a big year for the Illinois defense.

The 2013 season was not a very positive year for the Orange & Blue on defense, and fans are hoping that the defensive unit shows some kind of an improvement this time around.

However, Ward has a chance to help the Illini defense improve from their less-than-stellar 2013 season.

At the Big Ten Media Days, senior tight end Jon Davis had this to say about Jihad Ward:

“And then on defense, Jihad Ward looks like he’s been playing already for three years. I’m looking forward to seeing him in pads.”

Maybe, Ward will be able to help the Illini defend better against the great running backs in the Big Ten this season.

Be on the lookout for our Countdown to Kickoff series as we continue to work our way to the season opener on August 30th.

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Tags: Football Illinois Fighting Illini Jihad Ward Taylor Zalewski

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