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Illinois sophomore RB Dami Ayoola kicked off team

Illinois running back Dami Ayool(22) celebrates after scoring touchdown against CharlestSouthern during first half an NCAA college football game Saturday

Illinois running back Dami Ayoola (22) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Charleston Southern during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

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Updated: September 3, 2013 11:16PM

Dami Ayoola, a sophomore running back who played in 11 games as a true freshman but was missing from Illinois’ 42-34 victory Saturday over Southern Illinois, was dismissed from the team. According to a brief statement issued by the school Tuesday, the cause was a violation of team rules.

The statement offered no other details of substance. Attempts to reach Ayoola and his family were unsuccessful.

Ayoola, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in 2012. The former three-star recruit played at high school football power St. Thomas Aquinas, which has a long list of alumni in the NFL, including Cincinnati Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard. Wisconsin starting running back James White also played there.

The 5-10, 205-pound Ayoola was third on the depth chart this season, behind Donnovon Young and Josh Ferguson, but the strong, quick runner was expected to contribute to the offense and still had three years left to emerge.

Redshirt freshman Devin Church, who is listed on the roster as a wide receiver, was the Illini’s No. 3 running back against Southern Illinois. Church carried once for nine yards.

Feet on the ground

The Illini have been 2-0 just once in the last seven years. That was in 2011, when Ron Zook’s final team pushed its record all the way to 6-0 before succumbing to the mother of all collapses, an 0-6 finish.

So you’ll have to excuse quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase if he’s a tad too jaded to make a huge deal out of being named the Big Ten’s offensive player of the week. The fifth-year senior threw for a career-high 416 yards against SIU. A couple of days into preparations for Week 2 opponent Cincinnati on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN2, 560-AM), he summed up his feelings about receiving the honor.

“If you think back to who was last year’s winner of the first-week offensive player of the [week], nobody probably has any idea.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

Running with the Bulls

Illinois finalized a home-and-home series with South Florida for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The Illini will play in Tampa, Fla., in 2017 and host the Bulls the following year.

USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference after spending the last eight years in the Big East.


Twitter: @SLGreenberg

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