Junior Glenn Foster played defensive tackle last year, but it was more out of necessity than preference. He was happy to be moved back to end this spring, and it allowed him discard extra weight to improve his mobility.
"I weigh about 265 now. I'm back at d-end, my natural position. I feel real good at this weight."
Of course, he realized even in Camp Rantoul he would be needed at tackle on occasion. He wasn't anticipating starting there against Arkansas State, but the heat and their hurry-up spread offense favored him over tackle Craig Wilson.
"I'm very diverse. I can rush in the middle as well too. When we have a lot of blitz packages or third and longs, I can pass rush inside. (Whitney) Mercilus and (Mike) Buchanan can rush the outside and still get good pressure. I love to do it. I love to move around. I have versatility."
Most of the 2011 season, Foster will be found at his more familiar end spot. He likes the potential of Mercilus and him sharing time there.
"He brings his lunch to the table, and I bring my lunch to the table too. We come ready to go every time. It's just a good combination. We're gonna be real entertaining on and off the field. He's a good pass rusher, I'm a good pass rusher. We're good run stoppers, so we have an even punch.
"It's a very long season. We're gonna keep some energy on the field. When he's tired, I'll come out and make plays. When I'm tired, he's gonna come out energetic ready to make plays. You've got two real good playmakers at the end position to replace Clay Nurse and the other guys."
"We do have some depth at the position. The others are coming along pretty good. Tim Kynard is a redshirt sophomore now, and he's picking up his responsibilities and getting into that playbook. We will actually need him. This will be his time to get on the field and get some experience. We'll be pretty good.
"Kenny is learning a lot faster than any of us anticipated. He has leg strength to make up for a lack of upper body strength."
The Chicago Mt. Carmel graduate has improved his consistency, but he still sees ways he can get better.
"First and foremost, get back into my pass rush because I'm still used to rushing from the 3-technique. Working on my speed rush and getting better at dominating that quarterback. Dominating in the backfield.
"That's what I want to get better at. It's a different mentality on the inside. Being more aggressive is my main goal. Being more violent like that (Adrian) Clayborn from Iowa. He's a nice athlete."
The defensive line has been maligned during the off season, especially after star junior Corey Liuget left a year early for the NFL. Foster says there is a unity of purpose among those who toil on the line this season.
"Coach (Keith) Gilmore says the strength of our defense is gonna rely on the guys up front. We had to bond together, not only this summer but the whole off season. We bonded together as one unit, teaching each other, coaching each other, making sure we stay out of trouble and keep each other on the same page."
Further motivation has been supplied by preseason prognosticators who undervalue the Illini d-line.
"We can dominate up front because they have us ranked last in the Big 10 as a defensive line. This season is to prove the world wrong, that we can be #1."