The Illini football team looks to have an improved defense this year. How well they do depends…
Illini Combine Squads for Day Two in Rantoul
RANTOUL, IL — The Illini adjusted their schedule for Tuesday's session in Rantoul, taking a break from the split squads to combine the team for a two-and-a-half hour workout. Overcast skies provided cool temperatures for the day's intense workout in shoulder pads and shorts. The squad advanced a bit more in their offense and defense installation, while taking advantage of two 7-on-7 periods and 20-minutes of team work.
Position Spotlight – Linebackers: During the 2005 season, every linebacker to play substantial minutes at the position were freshmen or sophomores. Due the youth a year ago, all starters and backups return for the 2006 season. Add to that group four newcomers and you will find competition in the ranks. Two-year starter J. Leman is back for his junior season. He finished second on the squad in tackles a year ago. He is joined by fellow starters junior Sam Carson and sophomore Brit Miller. At the semester break, Illinois got the boost of junior college transfer Antonio Steele, who looks to be a major contributor if not starter on Sept. 2. Here is the take on the position battles from Miller and second-year linebackers coach Dan Disch.
Sophomore linebacker Brit Miller
On the first whole-team practice:
"I think the pace kind of got to us today a little bit. We've got to get used to that. It's good to be out here with the whole team, with the guys you're going to be playing with and not separated into Orange and Blue teams. I think overall it was a decent day. We're getting better, we just have to get used to that pace and that takes a little bit of time."
On practicing as an entire team:
"It starts the preparation for games. We've been together all summer running as 1s and 2s. As linebackers, it doesn't really matter because a lot of us are going to play. We just kind of roll in different people and that's how we like it. In the split practices we were kind of limited in what we could do, but at the same time we got a lot of reps. Today it seemed like the reps were kind of limited, but that's just how it's going to be in practice for some people. At the same time, it just makes you take quality reps on every one you get."
Linebackers coach Dan Disch
On the new linebackers:
"After two days it's kind of hard to tell, but I'm impressed with their work ethic and the way they're running around trying to pick stuff up. It's really early yet and you can't tell, especially at linebacker, until you get into pads and start tackling, taking on blocks and those kinds of things. We got a couple days, and probably a couple of weeks, until we sort everything out."
On the one-on-one linebacker vs. running back drills:
"It's funny, when Coach Mitchell's and our guys get together, we get them one day and they get us the next, so it's hard to tell. But for the first day in our shells, it was good. The kids like to mix it up a little bit. They compete and that's what we're looking for."
Story courtesy the University of Illinois Sports Information Department
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