Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase looked ready to go, but starting quarterback for Purdue remained a mystery Tuesday.

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase looked ready to go, but starting quarterback for Purdue remained a mystery Tuesday.

After it was stepped on during the 43-13 win over Indiana on Saturday, Scheelhaase's throwing hand looked fine before the Illini (4-3 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten) host Purdue (4-3, 2-1) Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN2). Meanwhile, Purdue coach Danny Hope wouldn't commit to a starter.

If Boilermakers starter Rob Henry can't go after lacerating the index finger on his throwing hand in an injury against Ohio State that also tore off his fingernail, the Boilers will start freshman Sean Robinson, the former Rochester High School star.

"The silver lining to it is we still have Sean Robinson,'' Hope said.

After Henry, Robinson is the only scholarship option available with college experience. Justin Siller, a former quarterback, wasn't yet cleared after missing three games with a sprained foot, Hope said.

If Purdue didn't have Robinson, "we could be in some serious trouble because he's a good player and a good passer,'' Hope said. "He's really competitive. He has good football smarts. He's always into what's going on, and that helps.''

Robinson was 6-for-10 for 30 yards passing in the 49-0 loss at Ohio State Saturday in his second game played.

Hope was "optimistic (Henry) might be able to play this weekend,'' he said, but infection remained a concern.

Robinson began the season as the fourth-stringer but climbed the depth chart because of a knee injury to season-opening starter Robert Marve and academic ineligibility to projected backup Caleb TerBush, of Metamora. If Siller is unable to play behind Robinson, the next man in line is a walk-on, Hope said.

A scab stretched across the top of Scheelhaase's throwing hand -- it looked like a cleat mark -- but he said it was full strength.

"I'll give you a handshake to prove it,'' he said.

GOOD GRADES: The studying paid off for Illinois junior safety Tavon Wilson. He scored a 98 percent on his last test. Moved from his starting cornerback spot to safety a little more than a week before the season because of injury, Wilson first needed to think like a safety before he could play like one.

"At cornerback, you worry about yourself and worry about what your opponent is doing,'' Wilson said. "At safety, you've got to learn what (linebacker) Nate Bussey is doing, what (cornerback) Justin Green is doing, what (linebacker) Martez Wilson is doing. You have to know where they are so you know where you need to be.''

Evidently, Wilson and the Illini defense know what they're doing. They've improved from 96th a year ago in scoring defense (30.2 points per game) to 15th (17.7). At the same time, Wilson's scores have sky-rocketed. Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning informed Zook that Wilson graded at 98 percent in the 43-13 win over Indiana.

"I've coached the secondary a lot of years, and no one graded at 98 percent,'' Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "Vic smiled and said maybe he'd go back and look at the film again.''

Wilson finally began making the change in how he approached film study two or three games into the season.

"I was watching film from a cornerback's perspective, not knowing I have to get all these guys lined up, too,'' he said. "Now when I watch film, I want these guys in there to know what they're thinking. We watch film together more to understand what we're all thinking in certain situations.''

ETC.: When Illinois blocked punts on back-to-back Indiana possessions Saturday, it was the first game the Illini blocked two punts since Sept. 11, 1976, against Iowa. ... According to NCAA stats, Illinois has faced the toughest schedule in the nation thus far. Not counting games against the Illini, opponents are 35-9 this season.

John Supinie can be reached at