Hernandez praises several Illini football players after returning from COVID-19 break

Sports

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Lou Hernandez doesn’t have a COVID-19 playbook for how to get players in shape during a pandemic. The Illinois football strength and conditioning coach often keeps workout notes to reference, sometimes even years later, but he doesn’t have anything written down for what he’s dealing with right now. So he’s getting creative.

The Illini are working out in small groups, nine players and one coach, to comply with the state and school regulations to try and contain the spread of coronavirus. The lifting and conditioning starts at 7 a.m. and runs thru the early afternoon, as Hernandez and his staff try to get their players ready for the fall. About 35 players are currently on campus, some came back from their three month break at home in shape, while others had taken a step back. Hernandez had to do baseline testing to evaluate a starting point, even telling some of his guys to take it slow.

“You got Jake Hansen and Khalan Tolson, I mean these guys are leading the charge right now,” Hernandez said during a Zoom call with media. “Brandon Peters looks absolutely incredible at this moment in time. Luke Ford is showing some flashes of everything we’re expecting him to be so these are some guys right now who have definitely put in some sweat and have put in some work and you can definitely see that.”

Hernandez says he expects the entire team to be back in Champaign by mid-July. The NCAA approved a preseason football plan earlier this month, allowing teams to begin working together with coaches July 13-23, all building towards the official start of training camp Aug. 7.

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