Saturday Afternoon Gridiron Wrap: Illini Football News for August 1-7

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

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.

McGee positively the leader

McGee ready to make senior year into memorable one

  • 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.

As Illini camp opens, deuces are wild cards

  • 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.
  • 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.

How hot is Zook’s seat?

Zook job status and other Big Ten questions

Zook focuses on future, not pressure

Zook, Illini focusing on team effort

Illini’s Zook takes a fresh approach

A good move for Illini

  • Revisit Illinois’ side of the story at Big Ten Media Days here and check out these other interesting stories from the two-day event.

Big Ten football takes center stage

No conference name change

Big Ten coaches and players meet regularly about agents

For Zook, all it took was one look at Bo

  • 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.

Opening Camp: Illinois

Illini trying something different

Hope is in the air

Illinois camp day 1 video

  • 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.

Illini Recruiting News

  • 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

21. Juice Williams (2006 – 2009)

18. Jack Trudeau (1982 – 1985)

7. Kurt Kittner (1998 – 2001)

  • 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).

Until tomorrow.