Each year, the University of Illinois football staff, the IHSFCA, and many high school football coaches put on a gathering where coaches can chat up X's and O's and new strategies for the upcoming season.
This year's clinic was no different. The headline speaker this year was considered a real catch for Illinois head coach Ron Zook. Zook had convinced former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders coach and current ESPN Monday Night Football analyst John Gruden to attend the clinic.
Unfortunately for Zook and the many high school coaches in attendance, Gruden was unable to make the event. On his way to Champaign, there were severe storms in central Florida from where Gruden was traveling. On his flight, Gruden's plan was struck by lightning and had to make an untimely landing, preventing his attendance.
Filling in for Gruden was Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino. On Thursday night, the Illinois staff had spread out amongst themselves to talk specifics depending on position. Friday morning, Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning talked about disguising coverages and their robber formations.
Championship rings and watches were then presented to the champions and runner-ups of last year's state football championships.
After that, Petrino ended the morning by speaking specifically on the crossing route. Different slides and videos of the current Illini players were used to illustrate what he was speaking about.
Petrino also spoke on three things that he believes are important to gain success for all coaches. He emphasized the importance of attitude, effort, and passion.
"Get your players to show up with a great attitude, and you have a chance to be great on the football field."
For the rest of the day and the following morning, Illinois high school and small college football coaches spoke in the various banquet rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Attendees could choose to listen about a variety of topics. Some of the popular topics included: the no huddle/hurry-up offense, the zone read, the 3-5 defense, offensive line techniques, and how to run lower level programs at the high school level.
The speakers seemed to be a hit with the coaches as many could be seen jotting notes and comparing ideas for the following season with their coaching peers.
The Illinois football staff used the weekend to talk football and continue to develop their network and relationships with the coaches in state. Upon leaving the clinic, everyone seemed excited and ready to go for another season of high school and collegiate football.
As Zook reiterated to the coaches, "It's a great profession, and we are all in this thing together."