Spring Practice Report One

Ron Zook officially started his second season as Illinois' Head Football Coach with the start of Spring Practice on Tuesday afternoon in Champaign. IlliniBoard.com's Jacob Thompson attended practice and provides some observations on the Illini football team after their first practice.

On a cool, drizzly afternoon that could be confused for early November, the Fighting Illini Football team had their first practice of the spring. The light rain and chill did nothing to dampen the spirits or energy of the team or coaching staff. The 2 hour practice was up-tempo and very involved, especially Coach Curt Mallory. I'm not sure he stopped yelling once. He is always yelling, always teaching and always moving while working with the defensive backs. The following are other observations made at today's practice:

Akim Millington is huge. Of all the newcomers this year, he certainly could make the biggest impact. He and Chuck Myles will make a massive set of bookends on the Illini offensive line. To say they're both large men is an understatement.

WR Will Judson on the other hand is just the opposite. The Florida A & M transfer is 5'8, 155 and that might be an overstatement. What he lacks in size, he makes up in speed. This kid can flat out fly, and is a shifty and elusive runner. Judson fielded the majority of the punts during the special teams drill, and has the potential to be an electrifying return man.

WR Derrick McPhearson appears to be fully healed from his leg injury last season. He looks great coming off the line, and very fluid in his cuts.

As reported earlier, Ryan McDonald took the snaps at first team center to move Matt Maddox to guard. If he can handle the snapping duties, and Chuck Myles keeps improving at tackle, the offensive line will be greatly improved from last season.

It was good to see Illini signees Juice (Isiah Williams) and Chris James down for the first practice. The weather wasn't ideal, but they were in high spirits and mingled with the team. They also shook hands with Kurt Kittner, who took in some of the practice. James Cooper was also watching, and several '07 recruits were on the sidelines.

It was good to see the defensive players fired up in scrimmage situations. Any time the defense made plays, forced turnovers, the defenders on the sidelines were very into it, very vocal.

Kyle Hudson, Jody Ellis, D-Mac took most of the reps at First Team Wide Receiver.

QB play was sloppy. Flakes, Blalock, Garza and Venegoni all had their turn throwing a fair amount of balls. Lots of passes were thrown in different drills, and a lot of them wobbled or sailed high. Afterwards however, Coach Zook said he was not concerned with the QB play. It was the first practice, and the weather didn't do them any favors.

Some other things Zook said after practice was that the play was "sloppy and rough," but practice is easier now that the staff knows everyone. The team "looks like we should look after a year." Coach Zook would like to raise the expectation level of performance this year now that the team is comfortable with the staff and the system. Zook was "real pleased" with Freshman punter Kyle Yelton's work today.

IlliniBoard.com will try to get a better look at the defense as Spring practice continues.

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