Position Probe: Center

An in-depth take, position by position, as the Illini transition from spring drills to summer workouts.

Four out of five ain't bad.

The offensive line figures to be a team strength, thanks to four returning starters like Alex Hill, long-time players with plenty of past meaningful experience.

Hill can play center or guard, depending on what the circumstances dictate. It's that versatility that allows coach A.J. Ricker to flex to find his best five players to employ, regardless of set positions.

Forget boxing a player like Hill into one slot. While Hill's ability to play multiple spots is helpful, it's made possible by the emergence of Joe Spencer. The sophomore began taking first-team reps during spring when Michael Heitz moved to tackle and Hill slid to guard.

Is Spencer where he needs to be? Probably not, but he's got the summer and fall camp to convince the staff a lineup including him is viable.

Looking ahead, don't count out the incoming Nick Allegretti. While it's hard to imagine a true freshman cracking into the rotation, it will be important for Allegretti to get ready to start in 2015. Like with Austin Schmidt last season, what's the best way to get a newcomer ready for a starting job? There's pros and cons to redshirting (in a perfect world, every offensive lineman would redshirt out his first season), but you can believe Ricker will give Allegretti all the work he can handle come August.


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