Wildcats' Dan Persa ready to play

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern senior quarterback Dan Persa is expected to make his return to the field against Illinois on Oct. 1.

"I would be shocked if he doesn't play," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said after practice on Thursday.

Persa hasn't played in a game since rupturing his right Achilles tendon against Iowa on Nov. 13, 2010. He had been hopeful to return earlier this season, but wasn't cleared medically prior to any of the Wildcats' first three games. Northwestern is off this week.

Persa also was optimistic Thursday he would make his season debut against the Illini in Champaign. Persa missed last year's 48-27 loss to rival Illinois at Wrigley Field due to his injury.

"I'm ready to go," Persa said. "I don't consider myself injured anymore."

Persa was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the conference's coaches last season after completing 222-of-302 passes for 2,581 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. He sat out the team's final three games.

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.