Illini Plan To Use Jon Davis In Multiple Ways

Depth issues at some positions may have been a concern for Fighting Illini football coaches and fans alike in the spring. But it may have been a blessing for promising young tight end Jon Davis. His versatility got a test in the spring, and he came through with flying colors. His athleticism gives the Illini options going into the 2012 season.

Jon Davis is listed as a tight end, and he played there enough last fall to earn a letter despite being a true freshman. But he spent time at slot receiver and running back in spring practices.

"It was a fun spring. It's a new offense; I'm just getting into the groove of everything. Things have been going well.

"I'm learning a lot of new positions, so I'm kind of going back to high school a little bit. I played running back in high school, so as far as lining up in the backfield, it's the same. The terminology is a lot different."

Davis caught 22 passes for 187 yards and one touchdown last fall, and he expects to catch even more in 2012 as Illinois makes him a major part of the offense. He is still a tight end, but he will be used in a variety of ways.

"I like the offense. It's flexible for me. I can be really versatile with my athleticism. I think I can play a lot of different positions. It takes awhile to learn all the positions. You've got to get in the playbook a lot. But I think it's coming along pretty good."

The former Kentucky star is developing a solid relationship with his position coach Alex Golesh.

"The coaching staff is good. They bring a lot of energy every day. It's been real good to see. I'm really getting used to Coach Golesh. He's a good coach on and off the field. He gets us going every day."

Tight end is perhaps the deepest position on the team. While it is not always featured in a spread offense, Illini tight ends proved this spring they need to play despite learning a new system with new coaches.

"I think every position group feels like we are starting all over with brand new coaches. I think everybody has to prove something. I think as a group, we feel like we have 4-5 guys that can be in there at any time. We are trying to prove that we can play."

The Illini offense was slowed in the spring by having to learn an entirely new system with new terminology. Davis feels the team is catching on.

"I think we're doing pretty well for as fast as we've gone. It seems like we kind of rushed into it, but I feel like we're doing a good job picking it up."

Co-Offensive Coordinator Billy Gonzales has made a strong impression.

"Coach González brings a real fire. You can tell he's passionate about football. He's been at Florida and all the great places, so we're excited about the offense."

The 6'-3", 230 pounder also likes head coach Tim Beckman.

"Coach Beckman is good; he's bringing a new era. He's doing a lot of stuff different, but hopefully it works out in the fall."

Davis seemed at home on the field last fall, so much it was easy to forget he was a freshman. But he is still in learning mode.

"Definitely the game speed was a big factor. It's a big adjustment from high school to college. I think in practice and next year, it slows down for me now."

Davis agrees the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl victory was essential in giving the Illini confidence going into 2012.

"It definitely did. With those six games that we lost, we didn't feel too good. But we got a win, and now we're looking forward to the future."

Barring injury, Davis figures to be a go-to player for the Illini the next three years.

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