CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois football is set to take the field for its first of 15 spring practices bright and early Tuesday morning, all leading up to the annual Spring Game on Thursday, April 20. The Illini are looking to build upon last year’s 8-5 record and trip to the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa, the best season in 15 years in head coach Bret Bielema’s second year in Champaign.
“In my 15th year now as a head coach, you just have certain feelings going into spring ball,” Bielema said on Monday. “You know you get the excitement of a new quarterback, whoever it’s going to be is a new quarterback and I really feel good about the guys we added. It’s year three and I really feel good about the direction we’re going and I think it is but we want to try to maximize as best we can.”
Ole Miss transfer Luke Altmyer is one of three new quarterbacks on the Illinois roster, joining walk-on John Paddock out of Ball State as guys with experience at the college level. Learning offensive coordinator Barry Lunney’s system will be a big focal point for those two guys, along with redshirt freshman Donovan Leary and true freshman early enrollee Cal Swanson, the only other two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
Bielema announced several roster and position changes during Monday’s pre-spring press conference, including former four-star linebacker Shammond Cooper’s intention to transfer. Miles Scott is moving from receiver to defensive back, with running back Nick Fedanzo joining him on the other side of the ball at safety.
Injuries are keeping several players sidelined during spring ball as well, including Zy Crisler, Matthew Bailey, Bryce Barnes and Ezekiel Holmes.