In this week’s football wrap, Illinois preseason practices officially began, Ron Zook addressed his job status at Big Ten Media Days, the Fighting Illini received another verbal commitment, and the team prepared for tomorrow’s Memorial Stadium Media Day before heading off to Camp Rantoul.
Illini Player News
- Redshirt freshman starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (#2) continues to impress his coaches and take charge of the offense. Reports from the first days of training camp before the Illini head to Camp Rantoul are that Scheelhaase has looked sharp and had no trouble hitting his receivers. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times at the recent Big Ten Media days, head coach Ron Zook praised the quarterback’s progress and work ethic, saying:
From the first time I laid eyes on Nathan, he’s impressed me. He’s just one of those guys that gets it done.
- Despite several reports that Eddie McGee (#10) would stay at the wide receiver position, Zook announced that McGee will backup Scheelhaase. While McGee had taken a few snaps under center in Illinois’ version of the wildcat formation, Zook said that McGee will practice taking snaps at the quarterback position at Camp Rantoul. While Scheelhaase is still the starting quarterback and McGee will spend much of his time this season at receiver, having an experienced player to practice with will definitely help the green Illini quarterbacks. Here are several more recent stories on McGee.
- Linebacker Martez Wilson (#2) is back to full contact practices after a herniated disc knocked him out for most of the 2009 season. Especially interesting, both Wilson are Scheelhaase are wearing #2 in training camp.
- Defensive end Clay Nurse (#97) was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about his thoughts going into the season. Nurse led the Illinois defense in tackles for a loss (10 ½) and sacks (5 ½) in 2009. Nurse feels that this season’s Illini are more capable of executing on the defensive side of the ball despite finishing with a minus-4 takeaway margin last season.
- Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Akeem Spence is fighting for a starting spot during summer camp.
- Sophomore safety Walter Aikens will be wrapping up a two-week jail sentence next week after pleading guilty to the theft of a computer from a dorm room on campus. Aikens was in contention for a starting spot this season, but Zook says the player will remain suspended from the team for the time being.
Illini Coaching/Team News
- Illini players defended their head coach at this week’s Big Ten Media Days. Representing the team at this week’s event, Nurse, Eddie McGee, and cornerback Tavon Wilson all said that while the media may be reporting that Zook is on the hot seat, internally the program, including athletic director Ron Guenther, fully supports the coach. Of course, Zook’s job status will be a huge story all season long, as evidenced in the number of stories on this topic last week.
- Revisit Illinois’ side of the story at Big Ten Media Days here and check out these other interesting stories from the two-day event.
- Here’s a team by team breakdown of the Big Ten in 2010, starting with Illinois, and some Big Ten predictions from the News Gazette.
- Illinois preseason practices began this past Thursday, and the team will hold its Memorial Stadium media day tomorrow and first Camp Rantoul practice Monday. Here’s a look at the Camp Rantoul schedule and some related football kickoff stories.
- Blogger Joe Kutsunis takes a look back at all that Illinois has been thorough this summer as he asks How did we get here? while Mark Tupper of the Herald Review answers tough questions surrounding Illinois football.
- Rich Exner gives a breakdown of every Big Ten team’s conference record since 1993 when looking at how to divide up the Big Ten into divisions next season when Nebraska joins the conference. Here is a head-to-head breakdown of how Illinois has fared against its conference opponents as well as the teams it will play in 2010.
Illini Recruiting News
- Illinois added a 13th member to its 2011 recruiting class with the verbal commitment of three-star cornerback J.T. Thornton. Thornton, a Florida native who won the state 400 meters in track as a sophomore, is praised for his explosive speed. He chose Illinois over several schools, including West Virginia and South Florida, and expressed his excitement about playing Big Ten football.
- Incoming recruit Reilly O’Toole of Wheaton-Warrenville South feels he made the right decision when he chose Illinois despite family pressure to choose Kansas.
- Get to know recent Illini commitment Ted Karras, an offensive lineman whose great-uncle Alex was an all-pro player for the Detroit Lions in the sixties and later an actor, most notably as the father of Emmanuel Lewis on Webster.
Former Illini Player News
- Bleacher Report counts down the top 25 Big Ten quarterbacks of the last 25 years. Three former Illini players made the list:
- Conflicting reports are emerging from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp this week about rookie wide receiver and former Illini Rejus Benn. Off the Record reported early this week that Benn was failing to impress coaches and that fourth round pick Mike Williams was more likely to start. However, four days later the St. Petersburg Times reported that Benn was standing out to the coaches and making big plays. It will be interesting to see who gets the starting position when the Buccaneers kick off the preseason at Miami next Saturday (the 14th).