Illini Look To Millines For WR Leadership

The Fighting Illini football team has a number of receivers on scholarship, but right now there is an absence of experienced depth. With the graduation of record-setter A.J. Jenkins, Darius Millines becomes the top receiver on the squad. He sat out the Spring Game with a minor injury, but that doesn't detract from his potential.

Darius Millines played every game for Illinois his freshman year. He caught only two passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, but he was prominent with his downfield blocking.

He caught 19 more in 2011, accumulating 218 yards and one touchdown. That may not seem like much, but he missed 4 games with injury and played second fiddle to Illini record breaker A.J. Jenkins.

"Yeah, with the injury and everything. I just hope and pray that God keeps me safe and away from all injuries so I can have a breakout year."

He suffered a foot stress fracture a year ago spring, and he sat out the last week of spring ball in 2012 with a mild reoccurrence of the same injury. So there are no guarantees. But assuming good health, Millines has the speed, athletic ability and experience to be a favorite target of Illini quarterbacks this fall.

"It actually feels good to be able to have that experience playing in those games. I think that's going to give me a heads up coming into this new year."

Before his latest physical inconvenience, the Floridian was making progress learning a new offense.

"Things are going well. Learning new plays, learning a new system, getting used to the new coaches. It's like being a freshman again, learning a new system."

Was it a difficult transition to a new coaching staff and new system?

"Not really. It's football, so go out there and play fast, play hard, make plays and get into your playbook."

To the 5'-11", 185 pound speedster, any system is fine with him.

"None of the changes affect me. I can go either way. I'm not trying to brag upon myself, but I feel like as receivers, we're still going to get the ball a lot.

"Whether it's (Paul) Petrino's offense or the new spread offense we have, it's just basically relearning different plays. Some of the plays look the same, so you just have to get the new terminology down. That's basically all that's new."

Millines likes his new receiver coach Billy Gonzales.

"He's a good dude and great coach. He also is funny. Every time I look at him, I just laugh. I don't know why, I just do."

Contrary to popular opinion, Millines feels his fellow receivers are making progress.

"I think all our receivers are coming along very well. We just have to help each other out because we are learning new plays and having a new coaching staff. We've got to keep each other mentally ready.

"I see all the receivers making strides, the ones that have experience, the ones that don't have any. I see everyone making plays, so that's always a good thing."

He shared names of several young receivers who he feels might help down the road.

"Fritz Rock is doing a good job and making plays. Anthony Williams, when he gets in, is making plays. Jake Kumerow, Jeremy Whitlow, Jordan Frysinger, everybody."

He admits the Illini defense can be dominant, but he refuses to concede anything in competition with them.

"Yes, I feel the offense is catching up. We always have a good defense. All our guys are very smart; they can play football. We can't go out there just halfway. We have to know our stuff and execute. I believe we have a good defense."

Beating UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl was a true blessing for a team that lost its last six regular season games.

"I think it gave us a boost for this coming year. I think this spring is gonna give us even more of a boost. We were going through so much with all the coaching changes, but we actually still came out to play hard and execute for the bowl game. So I think everyone sees that we can actually be a good football team if we strive to do what we know we can do."

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