CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois football officially kicked off spring practice bright and early Tuesday morning with the first of 15 practices, capped off by the annual spring game Thursday, April 20th at Memorial Stadium. For the third straight season, there is major change within the Illinois offense, with transfer quarterbacks Luke Altmyer and John Paddock joining the program.
“Any time you bring in a transfer, you’re always going to have those concerns,” Illinois head coach Bret Bielema said. “You’re never going to bat 1,000, but we’ve been batting pretty good.”
Bielema said earlier this month Tommy DeVito’s waiver for another season in college was denied, paving the way for change at quarterback. Altmyer comes to Champaign after two years at Ole Miss, while Paddock is a walk-on playing his final season of college ball after five years at Ball State.
“I see two guys who like to compete, who I think are excited about the opportunity before them,” second year Illinois offensive coordinator Barry Lunney, Jr. said. “I’m excited to let them show us what they got.”
From the outside, it would make sense that Altmyer will be the starter at Memorial Stadium in a month for the Illinois spring game, but on the first day of spring practice, Altmyer, Paddock, and redshirt freshman Donovan Leary were all featured prominently. The coaching staff is selling it as an open competition, and for Altmyer, it’s an opportunity for a fresh start with three years of eligibility still ahead of him.
“Just looking for a place where I felt valued, where they believed in me,” Altmyer said last month.
“Tommy came in with this big, bravado, Jersey personality and what it is,” said Bielema. “Luke’s a little bit more reserved, subtle. I distinctly remember calling Casey Washington and he was at lunch with Luke Altmyer. It just signified to me what he was doing and how he was doing it.”
“If Luke were to win the job and be the guy, to be able to have a guy that’s gonna have multiple years left, that would be a real positive thing for next year,” Lunney Jr. said. “But our focal point is this year. That would be icing on the cake.”
The job likely won’t be won in spring ball but Tuesday provided the start of on-field work as the Illini look to build upon last year’s 8-5 record and ReliaQuest Bowl appearance in the best season in 15 years for the program.