CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — It’s a new year and a fresh start for Illinois Football.
“Guys are excited,” Illinois rising senior Mike Dudek said. “Guys want to turn this program around. We’ve had a good winter so far.”
Spring ball brings with it an array of new faces including offensive coordinator Rod Smith. Tuesday’s practice was the first time the Illini had a chance to run his offense live.
“A little tiring,” Dudek said, who was a full participant at practice after dealing with multiple injuries last season. “Definitely our offense tempo has picked up a lot, but I like it. It’ll just take some getting used to.”
“I love the tempo,” Illinois rising sophomore quarterback Cam Thomas said. “Get on the ball and score. So, hopefully we’ll score a lot of points this year.”
But it’s more than just tempo. Smith says he hopes to have at least 60 percent of his system implemented at the end of spring.
“It’ll be a challenge, obviously,” Smith said. “But at the same time, we’re going to make sure we get good at something. We can hang our hat on our base stuff and from there we’ll continue to build throughout the summer.”
On defense, the Illini look to bring players up to speed after losing several starters from last season’s team that failed to win a Big Ten game for the first time since 2012.
“Whoever we got, we’re going to rock with,” Illinois rising sophomore Bennett Williams said. “We’ve got some talent coming in, definitely. I’m excited.”
Day one of the 2018 season is in the books but there’s a long road ahead for the Illini, who are looking build upon a 2-10 season.
“Guys are excited,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said. “I didn’t sleep a lot last night looking forward, and with a seven o’clock start time you need to be ready to go early on. I thought guys came out ready to practice. Good first day.”
Illinois has 15 practices planned for spring ball but only 12 of them will be on the field. The team is taking three days for walkthroughs and meetings. The only workout for the public to watch is scheduled for April 7th at 12 p.m.