Blog Entry

Spring Practice Primer: Illinois

Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:42 pm

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Illinois.

Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 7

Spring Game: Saturday, April 14

Returning Starters: Six on offense, seven on defense, one specialist

Three Things To Watch For:

1. A brand new coaching staff. Ron Zook and just about his entire coaching staff is gone (defensive line coach Keith Gilmore returns) and Tim Beckman is now the man in charge of Illinois football. Which means that not only will spring practice be the first chance for Beckman and his coaching staff to see his new team at work, but also the time to begin implementing a new system on both sides of the ball. There's no way the team will learn everything over the course of a few weeks, but the process begins now.

2. The quarterback battle. Odds are Illinois won't know who its starting quarterback is until the end of the summer, but the battle will begin this spring. Nathan Scheelhaase has been the starter the last two seasons, but he regressed a bit in 2011, and now that there's a new playbook, he isn't guaranteed to retain his starting job. Scheelhaase will be competing with Reilly O'Toole for the job, though if Tim Beckman's time at Toledo teaches us anything, it's that he's not afraid to go with two quarterbacks if needed.

3. The Star Position. Tim Beckman brought in Tim Banks as his defensive coordinator, and Illinois will be running a 4-2-5 defense that includes the "Star" position. Which is a hybrid of a linebacker and a safety. It'll be an interesting battle to see who claims the position, though outside linebacker Ashante Williams is probably the favorite. Williams may get some competition from safety Supo Sanni and incoming freshman TaJarvis Fuller, a playmaker out of Florida. Those two would be well-served to make an early impression over the next few weeks.

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