URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The uncertainty of who will start at quarterback for the Illini doesn’t change anything for the offensive line.
“Regardless, we’re just going to make sure anyone who wins the spot, make sure they’re protected and make sure they can trust us because we’re going to trust them with the ball in their hands at all times,” sophomore Vederian Lowe said.
That means building on last year’s performance. Illinois’ offensive line started three true freshman in 2017 along with redshirt freshman Doug Kramer.
“We feel very comfortable,” fellow sophomore Alex Palczewski added. “We got a lot of experience last year and we’ve put on a lot of good weight, a lot of muscle. We’re getting used to the offensive line now.”
“Naturally, that’s going to help,” offensive line coach Luke Butkus said. “We’re still trying to figure it out there. We’ve never got it. We’re still figuring out what it’s going to take and how hard we have to work.”
Larry Boyd was one of those true freshman who started on the line in 2017. Shortly before the start of camp, reports surfaced that Boyd had been indefinitely suspended. Head coach Lovie Smith hasn’t confirmed the suspension, but Boyd is practicing with the team.
“It’s a really big loss for us,” Lowe said. “It really kind of ruptures the chemistry a little bit.”
And chemistry is everything for the offensive line.
“The offensive line is different than any other group in football,” Butkus explained. “It depends on all five of us. We have to find a way to work together.”
The offensive line did add a few new faces including Peoria native Kendrick Green, who switched over from the defensive line.
“(We’re) making a little bit of changes on the offensive line,” Lowe said. “Just getting everything right and rolling so that when the first games come, we’ll be ready to go.”
The Illini could certainly use an offensive line that is ready. Last season, Illinois allowed an average of 3.5 sacks and only rushed for 105 yards per game. Both ranked last in the Big Ten.