Evan Wilson is an eloquent spokesman for Illinois tight ends. Now ready to begin his third year, his normal starting position is up for grabs thanks to all the quality depth available at the position.
"Everything's going real good. What I'm really excited about is the tight end group. The group is doing real well; we've got a heck of a squad. A lot of people are stepping up and making plays. That's what I'm really excited about."
Wilson seems to thrive on competition. But even if someone gets more playing time, team needs outweigh personal glory.
"They're pushing me, that's for sure. They're nipping at my ankles, but I love it. As long as we can get this team better, I'm cool with it."
New tight end coach Alex Golesh has made a strong impression on him.
"I love Coach Golesh. He's a great guy, a real personal guy. He knows a lot about you and is going to get to know a lot about you. It's a good thing about him; he's a great coach. He knows how to coach people. Everybody doesn't get coached the same. That's what I want."
The typical spread offense minimizes the role of the tight end. But with Wilson, Eddie Viliunas, Jon Davis, Matt LaCosse, Zach Becker and Justin Lattimore available, the quality present requires reconsideration. Illini coaches are finding ways to exploit the talent.
"I think so. I think we're going to be in there a lot. We made a lot of plays this spring. We'll be in the backfield sometimes, we'll be in the slot, and then we'll be in the traditional tight end spots. There's a lot of things we are going to be in, and we will make plays in all of them.
"We've talked about being a two tight end team with a lot of spread-out because we've got such athletic guys that can do a lot of things. With Josh (Ferguson, running back) being so speedy like he is, we are going to be hitting the edge. So we've got to learn to block in space. It will be wide open, but we will still have the two tight ends."
The 6'-6" Georgia native enrolled two years ago at around 210 pounds. He has built his size and strength through hard work.
"I'm right at 250, same as last fall. I got up to 255, but then in winter conditioning, you had to get your body right. So I'm down to 250. I'd like to beef up a little bit, just a little something extra. But I'm cool with 250.
"Every year, I can tell I'm getting stronger and stronger. I'm blocking better and moving better, getting used to the speed of this game. It's showing this year. I understand the game a lot better."
Wilson admits learning a new offense takes time.
"The big thing is terminology. It's different for me at least. I have to look at these signals to know the plays. It's a little something different. A lot of guys don't do that, but the quarterback is used to it. That's the one wrinkle that's been different."
Illini defensive ends have been giving tight ends great looks in practice.
"I like Tim Kynard and Justin Staples; they've really stepped up their games. They're giving us a real good effort. (Mike) Buchanan is practicing like a first rounder every day. I feel these last two years, I've been going against first rounders every day. That's making us better. They're giving us a hell of a look."
"The quarterbacks are the best I've ever seen them. Reilly and Nate, and then Miles is playing running back. Everybody's doing good and improving."
Wilson sees things from a positive perspective, but his enthusiasm is contagious. Illini fans hope his prediction for 2012 comes true.
"I'm always optimistic. We're going to take this Big Ten championship."