It may not feel like spring outside, but spring football is well underway for Illinois, and they brought Friday's practice to Chicago's Gately Stadium under the lights.
The practice started with obligatory team stretching and warm-up period. Especially necessary because Friday evening was especially blustery and the temperatures dipped down into the 30's by the end of the practice.
The star of the day was Josh Ferguson, no question about it. In fact, during team period he broke through the entire defense, up the middle, and took the rock about 70-yards for a touchdown. Without being blown dead by the officials due to contact.
That play was so electric, tight end coach Alex Golesh and the rest of the offense on the sidelines ran down to give Ferguson a high five even though the next play had already gone off.
Illini quarterback Wes Lunt is also worth his own bullet point. I'll admit it, I saw Lunt several times when he was in high school and then again at the Semper Fi All-American game less than a week before he left for Oklahoma State. That was the last time I saw him in person, but dang does that kid looks the part. He can throw too, the word on the street after practice was how happy the staff was about his performance so far this spring season.
Friday it appeared that former Bolingbrook standout Aaron Bailey was backing him up, and then former Wheaton Warrenville-South quarterback Reilly O'Toole took nearly all the remainder of the reps under center.
Defensive back Taylor Barton had one of the nicest moves all day in the 1-on-1 drills. He took one step, and by that point had already completely juked out his man -- and blown by.
One of the best blocks on the day during blocking drills, came from receiver Jeremy Whitlow, along with Davontay Kwaaning who blew around his man with a swing move, and Caleb Day who got straight to the bag (QB).
Of the youngsters that impressed, perhaps on top of this list was former Neuqua Valley receiver Mike Dudek -- there was plenty of buzz about him. He got plenty of reps on the day, and even made some nice catches.
A couple of extra notes, Illini tight end Jon Davis was the only athlete that went down due to injury the entire night. It did look to be pretty substantial, perhaps an elbow injury -- but from what I heard, Davis was already limited this spring and is expected to be fine before summer.