CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Football is almost back with the countdown to kickoff just four days out for Illinois. MAC champion Toledo comes to Champaign for the season opener Saturday night inside Memorial Stadium, in what will mark the second season for Illini offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. That continuity alone could be a big difference maker on that side of the ball, in the first time since 2020 that Illinois hasn’t made a change of coordinators on offense.

Lunney made an immediate impact last fall, improving the offense by an average of 48.2 yards per game, the second-best mark in the Big Ten. Now he’s looking to take another step forward with a few new players at key positions. Ole Miss transfer Luke Altmyer takes over for Tommy DeVito at quarterback, Reggie Love III and Josh McCray are in for All-American Chase Brown at running back, while All-Big Ten offensive lineman Alex Palczewski (tackle) and Alex Philstrom (center) are both in NFL camps. Key returners include receivers Isaiah Williams and Pat Bryant, along with offensive tackle Julian Pearl and guard Isaiah Adams anchoring the left side of the line.

“We don’t got to learn a whole new offense like we had to do last year so everybody just matured in the offense,” McCray said.

“We’re moving faster, we’re playing faster,” added Love. “With Coach Lunney now it’s like we got this, we know what we’re doing.”

“Just the terminology, the situational anticipation, what the players expect from me in meetings and practice, all of that has grown in year two as it should have,” Lunney Jr. said. “So I’m excited to take that off the field stuff, the offseason stuff and now let’s let that come to life when we start our season and looking forward to doing on Saturday.”

Illinois and Toledo kickoff at 6:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network.