Fighting Illini Prepare For Spring Game

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.-As the Illini football team winds down the spring football practice schedule, head coach Ron Zook, running back E.B. Halsey and linebacker J Leman greeted the media at a press conference Monday afternoon. Below are some of the comments from this morning.


On the progress of the team this spring:

"We're making progress. We're still a long way away, but we can't complain about the attitude and effort the players have given us. As I mentioned before, football is a reaction game and when you're thinking, you're not necessarily reacting, but Saturday we saw a light that shows we're beginning to react in some situations and at some positions, but they understand there's still a lot of work to be done. The exciting thing was there was a lot of improvement, which I thought there would be, but as I told them after the scrimmage on Saturday, it's imperative that this last week, they become unselfish and give us every possible bit of energy both on the field and off the field to get ready for Saturday.

On Saturday's spring game:

"We're excited about Saturday, we talked about it as a staff this morning and I want to make sure we go out there and have some fun, they fly around and give the fans a good show. Right now, we're going to have a game as long as we stay healthy, we'll have a game. We'll split them up. We'll start off in the first half playing a regular game with 12 minute quarters and then in the second half, we'll have 12 minute quarters and let the clock run continuously. Hopefully we'll have a beautiful day and keep them healthy."


On being ready for the spring game:

"It's been highly anticipated around here and like Coach Zook said, everybody so looking forward to next year and having a special fall, so this is our first opportunity to get in the pads and do some hitting and see what things look like with live bullets out there."

On strength coach Lou Hernandez:

"Coach Hernandez has been doing a phenomenal job. Everybody I've talked to likes him and likes what he's doing and likes what he brings to the table. With Lou taking over for the summer, we'll be looking to make great improvements. From the time he's been here, a lot of guys have improved already. Guys that have needed to gain weight have done that and guys that have needed to lose weight have lost it and gotten stronger, so we're definitely looking forward to what we'll be doing over the summer."


On the difference defensively between this year and last year: "Last year we came out a lot in the same front, a 4-3 stunt where you'd see four down linemen and three linebackers, now you'll see a lot of different fronts, a lot of times we're adjusting to the personnel that the offense is bringing in. The biggest difference is With our off we play against, they'll have four or five receivers, so we'll bring in a nickel or diem package, so I think the biggest difference is we adjust to the offense, instead of staying in the base defense.

On the excitement around the football program:

"It all comes down to Coach Zook. He's excited about it and he feeds it to the coaches who feed it to us. I think the fans are excited for something new, a new offense, new defense. I think it's going to be a lot of fun this year."

On the change to a defensive-minded coach:

"You get the sense that defense and special teams are Coach Zook's baby and he really wants to take care of it because that's what he's known for-and there's a reason he's known for it, because he's good at it. He takes a lot of pride in it and I think, like E.B. said, it all comes down from Coach Zook; the attitude of the defense.

Story courtesy of U of I SID

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