Illini start padded practices, fall roster finalized

Local Sports

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — It’s starting to feel more like a football practice should for the Illinois football team. The Illini worked out for the first time in pads in 2020 on Wednesday, after several delays and stoppages due to COVID-19. The turn of the page towards the start of the season brings several changes to the roster as well. Illini head coach Lovie Smith announced his final roster for the fall season.

Most notably, Cal grad transfer Chinedu Udeogu is no longer part of the program after announcing he was coming to Champaign back in May. Defensive back Nick Walker has opted out of the season, the third player to announce he will not play this season, joining running back Ra’Von Bonner and linebacker Dawson DeGroot. Kerby Joseph officially moved from defensive back to wide receiver, after trying the position out for bowl practices back in December. Fisher’s Jaden Jones-Watkins was also officially added to the roster, read more on his crazy story to become a member of the Illini here: https://www.wcia.com/sports/illini/fishers-jones-watkins-joins-illini/

“You go through a season, you have a roster put together and injuries hit you unexpectedly, but you have to be able to go on,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said. “So that’s how we’ve handled it. You mention three (opt-outs), I’ve forgotten how many we’ve actually had because the group we have now, they’re pretty locked in. A lot of guys were really working hard to have the right to play football, so know they’re getting their wish. That’s how we looked at it.”

Smith said no more players will be added to the roster this season but that he has a plan for the future. All players will be given an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA, due to COVID-19.

“You continue to add people to your roster if they can get into school. Right now everything is pretty closed down, so we won’t be adding anything else to this group,” Smith said.

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