Nick North Hoping For Action At Safety

The Fighting Illini football team has talent and experience among upperclassmen in the defensive backfield. But depth continues to be an issue going into the summer. Redshirt freshman Nick North has required some adjustment from high school, but he believes he's about ready to help out at safety.

Nick North arrived at Illinois from Hollywood, Florida, last summer hoping to see playing time as a freshman. But he quickly discovered adjustments that would require a redshirt year.

"It was tough learning all the new plays. I was just being introduced to the college football life. It's tough learning new strategies, learning how they want you to play. It's a huge step coming from high school."

Slowly but surely, North is beginning to relax and play his game.

"I feel a lot more comfortable than I did last year. Last year as a freshman, you're the new kid on the block. You don't know how you're going to react, how you do things. You're going to make a lot of mistakes. You've just got to learn from it."

The hiring of head coach Tim Beckman and his staff also required adjustment and delayed his development.

"It was tough when it happened. But even if you don't like it, you've got to get used to it."

Fortunately, new defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tim Banks has made a strong impression.

"Coach Banks is an excellent coach. He's showed me things I never would have thought of. Route combinations, what to look for in a receiver, everything. I think he's a wonderful coach."

The 6'-1", 195 pounder also benefits from the knowledge gained by the upperclassmen playing ahead of him at the two safety spots.

"I'm just learning from guys like Supo Sanni, Steve Hull and Patrick Nixon. Those guys are taking me under their wings, and Coach Banks is coaching me up right now. I'm just a kid in a classroom learning. Each day gets a little bit easier."

Illini fans haven't seen North in action yet. He describes his game.

"I love contact. I like to hit, but at the same time I like to cover also. I feel I can go out there and do my job, play the ball against the receivers."

Illinois safeties incurred more than their share of blame for any failures defending passing offenses in 2011. They are easiest to spot because they are the last line of defense. North realizes how tough it is to satisfy the boo birds.

"Yeah, it really is. I think we're more mature this year than last year. We're more in the classroom and not just on the field. And we are learning a lot more on-the-fly. We're learning from all of our mistakes from last year."

While he didn't play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, he is grateful for the chance to make the trip.

"The bowl experience was excellent. It was different, coming from high school. It was amazing."

North was still running third string in the spring, but his goal is to get playing time this fall and start in the future.

"I honestly think I'm going to get my chance to play on the field this year. Whatever God wants for me. I hope I play this year."

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