DC Banks Discusses Defensive Progress To Date

The Fighting Illini defense was highly rated last year, and there are a number of returnees. New defensive coordinator Tim Banks is pleased with the experience available to him, but he is pushing to make sure the defense continues to improve. He is looking to develop depth as well, and it appears some younger players are stepping up with one week of spring drills remaining.

New Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks was asked if he likes the experience available to him this season.

"Yeah I do. I don't think you can ever get enough experience, so I'm excited about the guys. The thing that I found out, the guys really enjoy playing football. They play extremely hard.

"They're still learning the system, but I'm excited about the guys because they're excited about playing football. Anytime you've got that, usually good things happen."

The defensive schemes Banks employs are generally similar to what the Illini have utilized previously. The learning curve depends in large part on how quickly the players pick up the new terminology. Banks was asked how long it takes to learn everything.

"A lot of times, it just depends on the level you're dealing with. These guys have a high level of skill. More importantly, it depends on how much experience they have. These guys have a ton of experience. Right now, it's just making sure they understand our lingo.

"They did some very good things last year, and it was very similar to what we're doing now. They just have to put it in the proper category. Hopefully, it will be sooner than later."

Banks preferred not to single out certain players, but he's been working hard to develop depth. It appears the defensive line is developing that depth as tackles Jake Howe and Austin Teitsma and ends Tim Kynard and Brandon Denmark in particular are making headway.

"That's one of the biggest things that we wanted to get accomplished. Those guys are getting a lot of reps right now. We are not quite where we want to be yet, but those guys are getting a ton of reps under their belts. We feel like we have to create some depth at those positions, so it's up to them to step up. They're starting to come along."

Is he finding leaders taking responsibility?

"I am. The same guys you'd expect, guys that have played a lot. J.B. (Jonathan Brown) is doing a good job. Even though he's a younger kid, he's doing a good job for us. Terry Hawthorne is doing a good job. So hopefully, the guys who played a lot here are going to be stepping up from the leadership standpoint."

With safety Supo Sanni sitting out the remainder of the spring with a minor Achilles issue, Earnest Thomas has been moved to safety and is playing second string. Will he stay at the new position or move back to Star?

"It's hard to say. We're still in the process of making sure we've got the right guys in the right spots. Earnest has done a nice job so far. He's still learning the position obviously, but right now we like what we see. We think he can continue to get better."

With Thomas at safety, rookie second semester enrollee Tajarvis Fuller was seen playing second string Star behind Ashante Williams. How is Fuller coming along?

"TaJarvis is doing a nice job. He's not ready just this second, but he's way better than he was when he first stepped out there. For coaches, that's all we can ask."

Banks wasn't at Illinois last year, but he was asked whether his 2012 defense is comparable to last season.

"To be totally honest, I don't think so much about last year. But I do see a lot of guys who work extremely hard. Every year is a different year, and that's what we keep preaching to the guys.

"They're gonna be charged on what they've done this year. I think the kids understand that. To play at the level they want to play at, they have to continue to get better and learn our system. They continue to improve."

Illini Inquirer Top Stories