Tim Kynard had one good week in the spring, but otherwise he was buried deep on the Illinois depth chart going into fall camp. The redshirt sophomore appears to be coming into his own at an important time to provide needed depth on the offensive line.
"Tim's doing real well," defensive line coach Keith Gilmore states. "Tim's kind of been a surprise. He has shown he can come in and give us some quality minutes with Whitney (Mercilus), and we're real excited about it."
Kynard saw his practice time increase this fall, and he has taken advantage.
"Practice has been going well. I had a good camp and a great off season. I'm finally starting to get some reps, so I'm happy right now."
His first action at defensive end against Arkansas State required some adjustment.
"The first game, the first time I got in I was, 'Wow,' a little nervous. But after awhile I got it going and got me a couple tackles and got the jitters out. And the second game it felt normal.
"The first year I redshirted, and last year I just played special teams. Now that I'm getting some snaps, I feel like a regular part of this team."
Kynard's development was essential. It permitted Illini coaches to use Glenn Foster at 3-technique defensive tackle, where his explosiveness and quickness is effective in pass rush situations.
"Glenn can play any position on the d-line. He's a great athlete. Like I said, I had a great off season, and I worked for it."
Shoulder surgery prior to his enrollment at Illinois prevented the Toledo St. Johns athlete from participating in Camp Rantoul and forced him to redshirt. His recovery was a slow process, but it appears he has finally put that episode behind him.
"The first game I was thinking a lot, but that was my better game of the two so far. It's finally coming along. I'm comfortable with the playbook. I feel good. I'm just blessed to get this opportunity. It's been a long time coming."
Kynard is up to 260 pounds, but the former basketball player was set back on his strength work due to the shoulder surgery. He says he still needs to work on his weight and strength.
"I've been up and down on my weight. Our strength coach wanted me to be 270, and I've been working at that. It's gonna take some time to put that weight on. They want me to be a little bit stronger."
Kynard also got some spring reps at Bandit. He feels he can be productive at both positions.
"I think I can. It's a game-time decision. If some guys go down, I have some experience there. Late in the spring, I did pretty good. I basically played the whole spring at Bandit. I think I'm versatile."
There are still things he wants to improve about his game.
"I still want to work on my footwork and have a good get-off the ball. That's the main thing, and using my hands more. Get a little more physical and pass rush more. I play the run, but I need to get that pass rush better."
He feels the Illini are ready to take on nationally ranked Arizona State Saturday.
"These first two games really showed that we can play. Arizona State will be our first real big test. We've been playing good."
Illini head coach Ron Zook singled out Kynard after the Arkansas State game.
"If there was one guy that really jumped out to me Saturday, it was Tim Kynard. I was very impressed. I told him I was proud of him.
"He came in with the shoulder problem and really didn't get a chance to do anything his first year. All he did was rehab, and he got into some bad habits in terms of work intensity. Even Lou (Hernandez, strength coach) commented this summer, 'I almost really like him.' So he had a great summer."
If he has a great fall, the Illini defensive line will benefit. And he has two more years of eligibility after this one to get even better.