Ean Days Blossoms After Move To Running Back

Ean Days (Holly Smith)

Sometimes teammate injuries give football players an opportunity to find their ideal position on the team. That happened with Ean Days. After a fall and winter of toiling without much success at safety, he was moved to running back when injuries depleted that position this spring. He may have found his proper niche for the Illini.

Ean Days played running back at Camden County High School in Georgia. Projected as a college safety, he had trouble learning the position. When Jason Ford, Troy Pollard and Bud Golden all sustained injuries this spring, he was moved to running back. He is happy for the opportunity.

"It feels great to be back at running back. I played running back in high school, so it feels like coming back home."

Of course, the learning curve was steep after working at safety since last summer.

"I've still got to learn the plays, I've just got into the offense. But day by day it's getting better and better. It's clicking more and more."

What is the hardest part of the new position?

"Picking up pass protections and learning the plays. Like learning who to protect, backers, safety blitz, stuff like that."

It may be hard to learn, but Nathan Scheelhaase singles out Days for his ability to protect the Illinois quarterback.

"That's definitely something I appreciate. He's done an excellent job of that. I honestly think that's the hardest part because in high school, not a lot of running backs learn complex pass protections.

"That's why you see guys like Mikel (Leshoure) do so well when he goes in for interviews. He's had to do pass protections, as complex as it gets. So for Ean to be able to step in and get that part of it has been huge for us."

Days redshirted last year, so he has four years of eligibility. It took him awhile to accept a year without football.

"At first I was kind of mad about it, but it happens to the best of them."

The Kinesiology major had to make some cultural adjustments when moving from Georgia to Champaign.

"Yes, it was very different. It wasn't really difficult to adjust, I've just got to get used to it."

He also had to acclimate to a major climate change.

"It's very cold up here. I ain't never seen no snow like this. It's crazy. I'm used to it now. This is my home for the next 3-4 years, and I'm good now. I'm ready to learn the plays and win some more games."

According to Illini head coach Ron Zook, Days appears to have found a home on offense as well.

"He may have found a niche there. He can protect, he's tough and got great vision. He'll play a lot of running back this year."

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