Tim Kynard Making Progress After Slow Start

Some Illini football players enter school with much fanfare. Others are less well known and must prove themselves to their fans. Tim Kynard fits into the latter category. He was a late addition to the 2009 recruiting class, and surgery forced him to redshirt. He was a regular on the punt team this season, but few realize it. He has a chance to play defensive end in 2011.

When Tim Kynard was announced as committed to Illinois, people asked, "Who's he?" The defensive end from St. John's High School in Toledo, Ohio, was not highly rated, so little was known about him. He explains why he was undervalued as a high school football player.

"I was playing both sports, I was undersized. Football wasn't my primary focus in high school. I came as a basketball player. It finally clicked my sophomore year when I started playing varsity. I didn't go to no football camps either, so that might have been one of the issues."

He had success in both sports and proved to be a solid leader.

"Three years in football we went to the state playoffs. In basketball we went to two state final fours. I was captain of both teams. We did pretty well."

Kynard wasn't able to demonstrate his ability his first summer on the U of I campus due to shoulder surgery.

"I played football and basketball in high school, and it was wear and tear on my shoulder. So I finally got it done before I got down here. I got it in April before I came for my summer classes.

"It took me all the way until the season started to begin practicing with the team. And it didn't start feeling 100% until late in the season. My first year, I was with Coach Lou (Hernandez) all the time, getting murdered. But I went through my first Camp Rantoul this season, and it wasn't too bad."

Even when he was able to practice, he was relegated to the scout squad imitating opponent plays. He was way behind entering winter conditioning and spring ball.

"Yeah, that was kind of frustrating because I thought I was gonna play my freshman year. We were using two ends, so I thought I was really gonna play. But I had to wait my turn. I'm starting to get a little time this year."

Kynard played regularly on the punt team. He was one of the three big linemen standing immediately in front of punter Anthony Santella to protect him from the rush.

"My first game was the Southern Illinois game. It was a different thing. It felt real good to play. I'm starting on the punt team, so special teams are my goal right now."

Of course, his long-term goal is to play regularly on the Illini defense. He was third string this year, but senior Clay Nurse graduates. He will battle Whitney Mercilus for playing time in 2011.

"I'll be second on the depth chart. Whitney's a good player, and he's playing a lot. So It's gonna be tough, but I'm gonna work at it."

Now he's had time to reflect, the redshirt year was a blessing.

"Yeah because I came out of shape and not ready to play collegiate ball. I feel like I got a lot stronger, and I'm coming along."

The 6'-3", 255 pounder brings definite assets to defensive end.

"I've got long arms and can bat down balls. I get off the line pretty fast. I can play the run a little bit, but the pass is where I'm at right now. I love the pass rush."

Of course, there's always room to improve.

"Mostly footwork, and get a little stronger so I can really play in the Big 10."

Kynard has great respect for his position coach Keith Gilmore and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning.

"Coach Gilmore is laid back. He's gonna get on us, but he's a great coach. Vic is a hot tamale. He's a great coach. The defense came a long way so far. Last year was kind of rough on the defensive side. But now he's turned it around."

Gilmore is optimistic Kynard can help the Illini down the road.

"Tim has gotten a lot better. Last year he didn't play in early camp. He kind of came for us middle of the year. He's starting to come around. He's a little like a freshman in a lot of ways, but he's a little more advanced than some because he's been in the program and understands the work ethic and that sort of thing. I look for him to contribute next year."

Kynard is undecided on a major but is considering Sociology.

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