Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, November 9, 2016
It?s a season of transition for Illinois, as Lovie Smith puts his stamp on a program looking to turn the corner and move up the food chain in the Big Ten West. And running back Kendrick Foster is doing his part.
The 5-9, 200-pound Foster leads Illinois with 596 yards rushing, averaging 6.3 yards per tote with seven rushing touchdowns. The junior also has seven receptions for 39 yards and two scores. And he?s coming off a career-high 146-yard rushing effort vs. the Spartans, when he carried 17 times with two touchdowns.
Foster had to wait his turn in Champaign, and it often was frustrating for the Peoria, Illinois, native. It got so bad last season that Foster said on Twitter that he wanted to transfer ? and then changed his mind. Good thing, as he has become a key cog playing for his home state school-a school that Foster?s father committed to out of junior college in the late-1990s but never got on the field because of injury.
Foster and Illinois (3-6 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) are looking to build momentum coming off a win over Michigan State, the Illini?s second Big Ten victory this season. I caught up with Foster as he prepped to play at Big Ten West-leading Wisconsin this Saturday.
Q: You enjoyed a career game last week in the 31-27 victory vs. Michigan State. How did it feel to have a breakout game?
A: Yes, it was a good feeling, especially coming out on top with the ?W.? The o-line did a good job and the receivers did a good job of blocking on the outside. Without them, I couldn?t get to the end zone. I am thankful.
Q: Have you been pleased with your season?
A: Yes, I have. But after watching film, I can still get better. You always can improve. I can get better at blocking, technique, taking the proper step. I am excited. It will be a good future for our team, and I am looking to help our team win more.
Q: How would you describe your running style?
A: I would say I am more of a between-the-tackles runner. I have really strong legs and my center of gravity helps me a lot. I compare myself to Ray Rice or Maurice Jones-Drew. I can bounce off tackles and make people miss in the hole. And I think I have good vision. My God-given ability is going through the hole and leaving defenders in the open field.
Q: What is your favorite play?
A: It was the one I scored on the 64-yard TD run (last week). It is called ?37 Slash.? You have a tackle pulling and we call it a tug block. He?s blocking the backside ?backer. And you just wait for that hole to open on the front side or back side.
Q: How big was it to beat Michigan State last week?
A: It is something to build on. It meant a lot. We just know that we are better than what we are performing on the field. It was a good feeling to beat Michigan State. We hadn?t beaten them in Champaign since I believe 1992. It is a springboard and look forward to the next game. Now, we are off to Wisconsin.
Q: What do you think of the Badger defense after watching some film?
A: They are hard-nosed and play to the whistle. They don?t take plays off. They are great competitors who I respect. It will be a good battle. That is why you play at a Big Ten school, to play teams like that. Wisconsin is among the best defenses in the country. It is fun and exciting.
Q: You wanted to transfer last year but changed your mind. How happy are you that you changed your mind and are still on campus?
A: I felt I didn?t get a fair opportunity. And I wanted to make the most of my talents and represent my last name as best I could. I am focused on this season and put that in my past. I am older and more mature. Coming from Peoria, Ill., being the guy and one of the best running backs in the country and coming here and not playing a lot and finally getting my shot, it has humbled me and helped me appreciate every moment. I am focused on the future and not worried about the past. It made me the man I am today. It was a tough experience but a well-needed experience, as well.
Q: The No. 22 that you wear holds a special place in your family. Explain why.
A: My father wore No. 22 in high school and wore No. 32 here at Illinois. That 22, it has that swagger to it and is in our bloodlines. I cherish that number and try to represent it the best I can to represent Peoria, and my father and the Foster name.