Kynard Embracing New, Expanded Role

Heading into his final season at Illinois, defensive end Tim Kynard is embracing a new leadership role.

CHICAGO - It doesn't take long to figure out Tim Beckman and Tim Kynard go way back.

The Illinois football coach calls his senior defensive lineman 'Timmy' and remembers recruiting Kynard when he was in high school.

That's not all that unusual, except for that Beckman tried to convince Kynard to play for Toledo, near where Kynard grew up, before he eventually chose the Illini.

Kynard was one of the few players Beckman knew when he took the Illinois job.

"I told him I could call his mom because she knows exactly who I am because I've been in her house," Beckman said. "He knew what we were doing at Toledo. He heard about the times when he was over here in Champaign and we were doing what we were doing."

Now entering his senior year, Kynard no longer has the long list of older defensive linemen around him. Gone is Michael Buchanan, Akeem Spence, Glenn Foster and Justin Staples.

That means it's Kynard's time to both produce and lead.

"Those guys were players on the d-line," he said. "I had to wait my turn. Those guys, I took knowledge from all those guys. Naturally it put me in the leadership role when those guys left. I'm embracing the opportunity."

The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Kynard had 18 tackles in 11 games as a junior in 2012. While his stats were held in check due to depth on the line, Kynard learned what competition really was while fighting for reps on the field.

"I knew that, you know, I had to stride in the spring and summer just to be able to hold my end and my side up," he said. "I knew I had guys counting on me to be accountable for my side. I took that to heart and I went to work."

This season Kynard will be the elder statesmen holding others accountable. It began back in December during offseason workouts and has continued through spring and summer. For a guy not known for being overly talkative, Kynard hasn't had trouble getting his message across.

"I think he's really taken on that role of being a leader," said senior offensive lineman Corey Lewis. "I think he knows he has to be. I think he knows he has to make plays. I think he's done a great job with the younger guys on the line. He's been leading them very well with the team drills that we have together."

According to Lewis, Kynard isn't a rah-rah type. So that means, "if TK is talking it means something because he's not one of those guys that talks all the time."

Clearly the line will have a new look this season. As it currently stands, Kynard is joined in the starting lineup by Jake Howe, Austin Teitsma and Houston Bates.

Combined, those three have two career starts, all by Bates. Still, Kynard is optimistic.

"I trust those guys," he said. "Those guys are ready to make their mark on the team and contribute. Guys like Houston Bates and DeJazz Woods are trying to fill that Leo (rush end) spot. Kenny Nelson as well, I really want him to play. We talk everyday. He's saying he's going to take my spot. No hard feelings. I would love to see him play. That would help our team out."

Regardless of who is out there, the group will most likely take it's lead from Kynard. After all these years and the initial recruiting miss, Beckman says he's happy to have Kynard heading into his second season in charge.

"I've been with him for 18 months," Beckman said. "The last time I saw him he was playing high school ball. The last 18 months, he's grown up as a football player. He started for us last football season. He deserved it and earned it. I really was impressed with his 15 (spring) practices. When you only have three seniors (on defense), one of them happening to be a walk-on, you ask a lot of those players. Timmy and Jonathan (Brown) have both stepped up big in that category."

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