Illini Gridiron Practice Report

CHAMPAIGN. Ill. - The Fighting Illini football team continued to prepare for the 2005 season with a physical practice in full pads, Monday afternoon. The Illini were back at a familiar practice location on the grass practice field east of Memorial Stadium. Practice continues at 2:20 p.m. at Memorial Stadium Tuesday.

Tuesday's session will give the Illini their last real scrimmage, getting in situational work, before they head into the Rutgers game plan.

"Wednesday and Thursday we will begin to work on Rutgers," Zook said. "It will be more about teaching the guys how a game week will work, how we do scout team. It gives them an idea of what we expect out of them. I don't like to put too much in too early because you take a chance that they guys get stale."

Zook also talked about the continued competition at many positions. "I don't like to sit around and talk about who is starting here and who's there," said Zook. "Competition is good. The more players you can play the better we are going to be. If you start telling players they are second-team, they start playing like they're second team. If they feel like they're first team, they'll play like it. Why not tell them all, they're all first team? You see that a lot, guys slipping into second-team mode. I have the most respect for back-up quarterbacks because they always have to be sharp. We are going to play as many guys as we can. That will help us, particularly down the road."

: Following Monday's practice, head coach Ron Zook took his freshmen football players into the stadium to meet and greet over 8,000 incoming students at the Annual Illini First Night. After encouraging the group to be regulars in the student section this fall, Coach Zook delivered an important announcement to the student body. Zook officially announced that this year's homecoming theme against Penn State Oct. 22 will be "Ignite My Illini," cueing a fireworks show that followed.

– Trent Chesnut, Illinois' head football equipment manager, enters his sixth year with the team, but like many from a year ago are learning a new system just like the players. Chesnut and his staff of one graduate assistant and 10-12 student managers just returned from the daunting task of moving their entire outfit back from a very successful Camp Rantoul. One of the most extensive jobs among the support staff, the equipment staff returned to Champaign with full practice uniforms, goalposts, clocks, tackling dummies, sleds and countless other equipment needed to run daily workouts. The squad, however, never missed a beat, starting up practice once again Monday afternoon. In addition to running practice, Chesnut's crew is responsible for all ordering and maintenance of gameday and practice uniforms.

On getting equipment to and from Camp Rantoul…
"We took a 24-foot Ryder truck filled up twice here. We used an 18-foot Ryder to haul the players' bags. We started set-up on a Saturday afternoon and by Sunday night it was all set-up in Rantoul. On the way back we got short notice that we were going to have the scrimmage at Memorial Stadium so we were kind of like the Baltimore Colts packing up the Mayflower and moving in the middle of the night.

On any uniform changes to expect…
"The uniforms are the same but we kind of tweaked the helmet decal on the side. The Illinois will be outlined in navy so it brings the Illinois out. People in the stands will really notice it more. To me it looks a lot sharper. Next year, we are changing the uniforms. Nike showed us a couple different looks. Coach Zook and his staff took a look and we'll go from there. Expect a whole new look for the Illini in the fall of '06. It's going to be sharp."

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