First Day: Illini open fall camp

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CHAMPAIGN — Football is back in Champaign and it’s a new look and feel for Illinois.

The Illini held their first practice Thursday afternoon on the east practice field just outside Memorial Stadium.  It’s the inaugural fall practice for new head coach Lovie Smith.  And for the first time in 15 years, the team will hold training camp on campus instead of Rantoul as Smith continues to put his fingerprint on the program.

“Seems pretty natural and I can’t wait for that next step too,” Smith said.  “Training camp and then next thing you know, Murray State will be coming in and it’s an exciting time to be associated with Illinois football.”
It’s been a busy five months since Smith was hired on March 7th.  He’s toured the state speaking to fans at multiple events, traveled to Chicago, Missouri, Texas and Florida for satellite camps to find the next recruits and spent time game planning for the upcoming season.
“A lot has happened since spring ball,” the former Chicago Bears coach said.  “We know the players a lot better.  Guys have had a chance, or we’ve had a chance to work them out.  Summer workouts couldn’t have gone any better.  We’ve gotten bigger, stronger, faster, all that.  But now, all that’s to lead up to having a great training camp.”
It’s the first time Lovie has been at a college training camp since his time with Ohio State in 1995.  But that doesn’t change his approach.
“I have had a lot of opening days for training camp in my career and you get pumped up and excited about every one.”
“I thought it was a good first day,” Illinois senior quarterback Wes Lunt said.  “You know we worked really hard this summer, just kind of going through the motions in the summer and with the coaches out here, there is definitely more intensity.  You know it was a good first day and a lot of young guys got a lot of reps.”
The focus over the next two plus weeks will be just to simply get ready for the season.  After August 20th, practices will be closed to the public, so the Illini can prepare more in depth for the season.
“We’re running around in shorts right now, the game’s played in pads, that’ll be our next big moment team wise. Every day of course is important, getting in pads we’ll be able to find out a lot more.”
“I think we’re a hungry team,” Illinois senior lineman Joe Spencer said.  “Everybody came out and we played smart but we played really fast today so I was impressed with that and you know I think everybody is excited and now it’s just keep it going.  Keep taking one step at a time everyday during camp.”

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