Illini Gridiron Practice Report

RANTOUL, Ill. – The Illini football team got every second out of their two-hour workout Tuesday afternoon. The Illini have only five practices, including one last two-a-day to go Wednesday before breaking camp and heading south to Champaign. Coach Ron Zook addressed the media following the practice session.

Coach Ron Zook on today's workout…
"We have made a lot of progress the last two days. We still have a long way to go but I feel good about things. Both practices yesterday I felt we made a lot of improvement. I was afraid they would come out sluggish but they handled the day off well and came out fired up. We are pushing them as hard as we can push them and they are responding."

Coach Ron Zook on adding size to linebacking core…
"Obviously you want to be a as big and as strong as you can be but you can't lose speed. You still have to be able to run. To me, if I have to give up anything, I want it to be size over speed."

Coaching Spotlight – Head Football Strength and Conditioning Coach Lou Hernandez:
Coach Hernandez is in his fourth-year of partnership with head coach Ron Zook. Hernandez has coordinated the entire strength program as well as assist with nutritional aspects and advice since joining the Illini in February. Hernandez arrived in Champaign via Gainsville, Fla., as the assistant director of strength and conditioning. Prior to a one-year stint with the New York Jets, Hernandez spent 10 years at the University of Houston.

Lou Hernandez on the team's commitment…
"We have a great group of guys and they have done everything we have asked of them. I wanted to challenge them every week and they came out everyday 100 percent. They want to be pushed to the limits and we did that. They saw the results and bought into the program. There bodies have changed and they are in great physical condition."

Lou Hernandez on lifting throughout the season…
"Maintenance for us doesn't really exist. Within a two-week period, you are either trying to get better or trying to stay the same. That's the kind of philosophy that we've used throughout the entire off-season and throughout the summer. The season is the most important time of year. The body has to be the strongest as it possibly can be. We are going to come out and we are going to lift but the only thing that changes is the frequency of the lift. We are obviously not going to lift five times a week any more. Lifting is not football but we are still going to try and hit our maximum weights that are set for that day and try to progress our strength week-by-week, step-by-step.

On taking a different approach in regards to weight or repetitions…
"The thing that is so challenging about the season is taking into account different factors. We have to take into account the heat, volume of practice, intensity of practice, the installation of plays and all the things that are not just physically demanding but mentally demanding as well. It is a lot more challenging time of year during the season because there are a lot more variables that come in to effect."

On team gains…
"If you look at the team as a whole we have had real good results all across the board. From the time we have been here in February to now we have made some great steps in the right direction and we are proud of what we have done."

Defensive Tackle Ryan Matha on the Strength and Conditioning program…
"From the day Lou came in, I remember the first meeting we had as a team with Coach Zook and he said we are not going to recognize ourselves in the mirrors. It has totally been true. If you look at the guys from before Lou got here to after he came the difference in the size of these guys is amazing. The guys are a lot bigger, faster, stronger and better."

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 the 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 have their last two-a-day workout with a practice in shells and shorts at 8:05 a.m. followed by a full pad practice at 6:30 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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