WCIA — Three weeks from Saturday, fans will be packed into Memorial Stadium for Illinois football’s earliest season opening game ever.
But there is still a lot of questions to answer before then, like who the quarterback will be? And what will the offensive line look like? And which freshman may see the field first? The Illini did not quite answer those questions Saturday at practice, but certainly there were some clues.
For the first time this season, the Illini competed in 11-on-11 team drills while media were able to watch practice. Transfer quarterback Tommy DeVito started with the first offense during the drills, although Art Sitkowski rotated in there as well as the two compete for the starting job.
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley alum Aidan Laughery was the third running back to get into the drills after Chase Brown and Josh McCray. And another freshman, Moline’s Matthew Bailey, made some plays with the first team. Defensive coordinator Ryan Walters is happy with his progression so far.
“Really surprised about his maturity level and his football IQ,” Walters said after practice. “He’s learning the defense at a fast pace. Sydney Brown has kind of taken him under his wing. He’s playing fast, the stage hasn’t been too bright. He’s gotten some reps with the twos and with the ones. As a result, his progression has been good. I’m happy with where he’s at right now.”
This was also the first look at the refreshed offensive line. Alex Palczewski moved back outside to right tackle at practice Saturday after playing at guard a season ago. Julian Pearl flipped over to left tackle and transfer Isaiah Adams moved inside to left guard. Alex Pihlstrom is set to take over at center, and Zy Crisler got the first snaps at right guard. But Jordyn Slaughter also got some time at the position.