Ted Karras is another in a long line of Karras family members to obtain Big 10 scholarships. Perhaps most famous is his uncle Alex, who starred with the Detroit Lions in the NFL and later became a successful actor. The Karras family is strong and aggressive, much like the Butkus family of Illinois fame.
Making the case even more poignant is the fact Luke Butkus is now Karras's position coach. Karras says the two have found commonality.
"Absolutely. He has a family history in the Big Ten, as do I. It's something we have in common. We both want to continue winning for our families. It gives me extra motivation."
The two have developed a strong relationship in a short amount of time.
"I love him. I'm very glad he's coaching is. It's great to be coached by a guy who not only played here but played well here, excelled here. He went to the Sugar Bowl, he knows how to win at Illinois.
"We get after it. He's a Butkus, so you know he's got a lot of pride in this school. I want to win for him."
Karras and redshirt senior Tyler Sands have competed daily all spring. Karras was selected first at the position in the recent Spring Game draft, but the competition is far from over.
"Me and him are competing for the right guard position. It's going to be a battle. Coach Butkus says he's not going to give the position to anybody; we've got to earn it. We've both been playing pretty well. It's going to be a battle throughout the entirety of spring, summer and fall camp."
Last year, offensive linemen played strongside and weakside, necessitating moving from the right side to the left and back depending on the play. That is no longer the case, and Karras is much happier staying on the right side.
"I like not switching. I like being on the same side at right guard. You can learn the plays faster and get more comfortable in your stance and reading defenses. If you're getting into your stance 100-150 times a day, you get pretty comfortable with whatever hand you're putting down."
Karras could be a future star, but he still has to improve some areas of his game.
"I need a little bit more flexibility perhaps. I want to learn the game more this year. So I'm going to get into the playbook and watch more film, really learn tendencies of the defense and what we can do to exploit them."
The Illinois offense needs time to learn new schemes and terminology so it can play with relaxed confidence. But Karras likes what he sees.
"It's coming along. We're getting all the plays, everyone is getting comfortable with the calls, and we're developing relationships with each other on the field. We're getting comfortable with each other's playing styles. I think it's coming along great.
"We have a good number of plays installed. We're perfecting our base plays, and we're putting little tweaks and stuff in. The o-line is simpler than for Nate (Scheelhaase)."
The 6'-4", 290 pounder is happy with the leadership developing within the offense.
"We have a great senior class. (Graham) Pocic is a great senior leader on the o-line. Nate is a junior now, and he's definitely leading too. We have some good solid seniors that lead us."
Karras must battle the Illini's experienced defensive linemen daily in practice. He has great respect for the defense.
"Akeem Spence and Glenn Foster have been battling in the trenches; they're tough matchups. Jonathan Brown will be our star on defense. I'm happy to have him back. He's going to be our leader on defense. And Terry Hawthorne has really stepped up as a senior leader."
Karras was part of a five man freshman class of linemen enrolled last summer. He's the first one with a chance for early playing time in 2012, but he thinks the five can ultimately become a potent offensive line once everyone develops.
McDowell, Durkin and Flavin need more size and strength, while Boles needs to lose weight. They have been working diligently with Aaron Hillmann and his assistants to find a balance between size, strength and body fat.
"The Strength & Conditioning staff says our minimum obligation is our body weight. We all have to strive to maintain, lose or gain. They have a great program."