Illini Football Update

RANTOUL, Ill. – The Illini football team's days at Camp Rantoul are winding down as they enter their last week of preseason camp. With only one more double session scheduled for Wednesday, the Orange and Blue are taking full advantage of their time in Rantoul. The rain from the weekend continued into Monday and left the practice fields wet, but no complaints were heard as the cool temperatures provided some relief after last week's heat wave.

"I thought both practices today were much improved," said Coach Ron Zook. "A lot of times when you have a day off you worry about coming back and you worry about being sluggish, but they came out this morning and tonight and came out pretty good. It's important to them. They want to come out and compete and play with enthusiasm and energy. We got better today."

"As I evaluate the tape from Saturday's scrimmage we are probably right where we should be and would expect to be," said Coach Ron Zook. "The defense particularly in a new system is usually ahead. But now tonight, the offense did a really good job of protecting. What ever it was, they got better."

Position Spotlight – The Wide Recievers:
This season the Illini will need the help of the entire receiving corps to run Zook's wide-open offensive scheme. Senior Kendrick Jones, a Street & Smith Preseason Honorable Mention All-American, leads the receiving core. Jones hauled in a team high 47 receptions for 687 yards and five touchdowns. The coaches have also been impressed with the play of sophomore DaJuan Warren, who gained most of his experience in the season finale with four catches at Northwestern. Junior Lonnie Hurst will look to bounce back from a knee injury at Wisconsin that sidelined him for seven games last season. Sophomore Frank Lenti Jr. has been making a name for himself early in the preseason. Lenti will offer depth at the position and challenge for a starting role. Another returning starter from a year ago is junior Franklin Payne, who caught 25 balls for 214 yards. A new weapon this year will be Jody Ellis, a recently converted DB who will add another big play threat to the offense. One of the most anticipated newcomers was freshman Derrick McPhearson, who broke his leg during summer workouts. McPhearson continues his aggressive rehab and still looks to factor into the lineup sometime this season.

Wide Receiver Kendrick Jones…
"As a group we have made a lot of progress since day one. We have a lot of young guys who are going to add some depth to the position. There are a lot of guys working hard and a lot of guys making progress. We're doing pretty good and we're on pace to be a good unit."

"We as a group are really starting to come together. With the exception of Kendrick, we are a young group, but we all are learning the new system at the same time. That has helped give us more competition. I am starting to feel real comfortable in the offense and I think the rest of the guys are too."

Fan Appreciation Day:
The annual Fan Appreciation Day will be held Sunday, Aug. 21 at Memorial Stadium. The fun for fans begins at 3 p.m., when they have a chance to take pictures, get autographs and throw the football with their favorite Illini players. Admission is free to the general public and parking is available in the North lots of Assembly Hall. Fans can come into the Stadium through the south horseshoe entrance. Game highlights and entertainment will be shown on the video board along with music and talks from all the coaches.

Upcoming Schedule:
The Illini take the field Tuesday with a practice at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday marks the last two-a-day with the usual morning session at 8:05 a.m. and afternoon workout at 3:30 p.m. A special teams scrimmage will be held Friday at 3:30 p.m. and another full squad scrimmage Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Illini break camp and head back to campus Saturday following the scrimmage.

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