I can’t believe I am saying this, but the Illinois football team plays a regular season game this Saturday.
Here are the notable Illinois football quotes from the Wyoming press conference.
OC Barry Lunney Jr.
“The DBs for Wyoming will challenge us, we just have to go and make some plays. That is the name of the game.”
- Thoughts: I am excited to see what Lunney can do with this Illinois offense. Isaiah Williams is the obvious playmaker, but Brian Hightower had a good camp and Pat Bryant looked good in spring ball.
“QB room that is a microcosm of our offense in the fact that they are learning on a daily basis, and that is always true no matter if you have been in the system for five years or one year, every day is a new day.”
- Thoughts: It is good that two veteran quarterbacks aren’t stuck in their ways. Illinois needs leaders, and leaders are always willing to learn.
“We’ll have a pretty good idea of how the game is going to start. That doesn’t go 40 plays deep into the game, but certainly, there will be some things we will want to look at and show different looks early on and kind of gather some information as we are going while trying to keep our guys comfortable and confident.”
- Thoughts: Adapting to the flow of the game is important. It is good that not too many plays are scripted. Get the first drive or two planned out, and then you can get a feel of the game. I like this strategy.
“I kind of see it like throwing mud on the wall. On Monday, you kind of get a big wad of mud of ideas and how you want to go about the week. You start throwing it on the wall, and then you are like, okay some of it sticks and some of it sluffs down to the ground. You pick it up and throw it again. You just keep doing it through the course of the week.”
- Thoughts: It seems that Lunney is always adapting. He isn’t a coach who says this is the way I have done it for years, so that is the way we are going to do things. Lunney is always molding his game plan, and that is exciting.
“I feel good about where that group (offensive line) is collectively. I am excited to watch them play.”
- Thoughts: The offensive line is the engine for the offense. Without this unit playing well, Illinois will not win games. It is good that Lunney is excited for this group.
DC Ryan Walters
“They want to run the football first. They do a good job mixing up zone and gap schemes. When they do put it in the air, they are quick concise reads.”
- Thoughts: I’m definitely going to keep an eye on this quote. Illinois ranked No. 57 in the nation in rush defense in 2021. I do like the fact we ranked No. 36 in the nation in opponent completion percentage. I will be curious to see if we can keep these numbers strong.
“I expect Keith (Randolph Jr.) and Johnny (Newton) to be Keith and Johnny. We don’t need them to be any more or any less. How they play and who they are is plenty good enough for what we need them to do defensively. They add experience. They add competitiveness to that room. Both of them are very athletic and strong, and they have to win it on the line of scrimmage for us to be successful defensively. So, we are counting on them to shoulder a lot of that weight for us.”
- Thoughts: Illinois has a strong defensive line. I look for Johnny Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. to be on one of the All-Big Ten teams by season’s end.
HC Bret Bielema
“This group of guys is very special, and I think it is going to be one of those types of years.”
- Thoughts: Bret Bielema knows what a winner looks like. He had tremendous success with Wisconsin. The fact he thinks this team is special should get Illini fans excited.
“For the most part, we are all very healthy.”
- Thoughts: Glad we are healthy. Starting the year off healthy is something we haven’t experienced in quite some time.
“I know who the starting quarterback is, the starting quarterback knows who the starting quarterback is, and our team knows that.”
- Thoughts: I am okay with the Illinois football team keeping the starting quarterback under lock and key. Let’s not give a team an early advantage to know what type of passer they are getting. I like this move.
“Luke, Tip, and another guy who had a really good camp is Marchese. All of those guys are a little bit different. And you throw in Griffin Moore who is playing really good football. I think Henry Boyer will play some tight end for us as well this year.”
- Thoughts: I think Illinois could end up being a tight end-heavy team in 2022. The coaching staff has been raving about the talent we have at tight end. Look for this group to have some standouts.
“We have a very difficult assignment on Saturday. This is a tough challenge for us on Saturday. They are very comparable and may even be better than the UTSA program and the challenge we had last year. So, that is kind of where our minds are at.”
- Thoughts: Bielema isn’t underestimating the talent that Wyoming has on the roster. That is the mentality of a winning coach.
“I am not revealing who our mike linebacker is. We have three linebackers who are good players. CJ Hart, Darkangelo, and Tarique Barnes all three of those guys, in my opinion, are starting linebackers, but only two of them are going to start.”
- Thoughts: Linebacker is an underrated group for this Illinois football program. I think we have multiple linebackers who could get picked in the 2023 NFL Draft.