Scott McDowell entered his first Camp Rantoul last fall weighing 290 pounds. But instead of getting even bigger and stronger since, the opposite has been true.
"I've lost a little bit of weight; I'm trying to get it back. I wasn't sick, it was just all the workouts. I've had a little bit of trouble keeping it on, but I'm going to put it back on this summer. I'm about 275-278 right now. I'm trying to put on strong weight."
The 6'-5" McDowell has natural athleticism that should make him a quality offensive lineman down the road. He shares his assets and the areas that need improvement.
"I move pretty well, I've got good feet and hands. I work hard every day. I've got to get stronger and put on more weight. I've got to improve my technique and make sure I stay low and place my hat correctly. I've got to move my feet and get the defender moving downfield. There's a lot of things that we're working on."
The first year in a college football program can be traumatic for anyone. It takes time to learn everything and play efficiently, especially on the offensive line. The Hinsdale Central product feels he is beginning to fit in.
"I'm starting to get the hang of it. I'm going into my second year here, and it makes a difference. You kind of get used to everything.
"It's really important for me to work my hardest and make sure the coaches have faith in me. Show them that I've been working hard and can hold my own out there."
Simon Cvijanovic held down the starting left tackle spot all spring, but McDowell is trying to earn playing time as well.
"I'm playing left tackle behind Simon. I'm trying to give him a battle. I'm definitely trying to learn from him. He's very good in his technique, and he's strong. I'm trying to pick up some of the things he does, and all the other older guys too."
McDowell is impressed with new Illinois offensive line coach Luke Butkus.
"I think he's a great coach. He gets the most out of his players, and he does it in a respectful way. He's real helpful, but he's forceful. He gets the most out of you.
"He's not gonna get on you for no reason. He's gonna show you how to do it right, and he's going to make you want to get better. I think he's definitely about establishing being tough and really taking it to the defense. I think that's his style of coaching."
The Butkus name resonates with McDowell. He has reason to trust his line mentor.
"I think it gives him a lot of credibility. Just the fact he was a great player here, he's been in the NFL. That alone, besides his name, gives him a lot of credibility around here."
McDowell didn't play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, but he benefitted from the experience. He was pleased with the win and felt it was a stepping stone to better things in the future.
"It definitely did that. I never experienced a bowl game. I thought it was a wonderful experience. We really came together as a team and helped the seniors go out with a win. It was great for our seniors and great for getting momentum for our younger group. And it was great for our coaching staff."