Media Notes: Spring Practice #2

The Fighting Illini continued their Spring practice on Thursday afternoon in Champaign. These are the media notes provided by the University after the completion of practice.

Story provided by the University of Illinois.
CHAMPAIGN, IL - The University of Illinois football team continued its spring football season with a two-hour session on Thursday that began on the grass practice fields and wrapped up on the field of Memorial Stadium. Over 500 high school coaches came out to the afternoon session as a prelude to the annual Illinois High School Football Coaches Association which began Thursday evening at the Assembly Hall.

SCOUTING THE RUNNING BACKS: Considered the strength of the Illinois offense, the Illini running backs know there is still much to work on during these valuable 15 spring practices. The squad returns all three tailbacks from a year ago, including two of the main leaders of the team in seniors E.B. Halsey and Pierre Thomas. Between the trio which includes sophomore Rashard Mendenhall, the group averaged over 110 yards rushing per game. The fullbacks are missing a key cog from a year ago in Jason Davis, but with junior returnee Russ Weil in the mix, the Illini look to fall into place in 2006. Back on the offensive side of the ball is sophomore Walter Mendenhall, who spent a stint at linebacker in 2005.

When asked how you improve an already strong unit, Illini running backs coach Reggie Mitchell commented. "Good players need to learn to play at the highest level all the time. We need high level of play with consistency."

"Through two practices, I have seen a lot of improvement in this group. They are starting to understand the offense and what we are asking of them. They are showing a lot of effort and attention to detail."

"At fullback, Russ has shown that he has the physical ability to play the position well. And I have been pleasantly surprised with the play of Walter Mendenhall. He has gained about 20 pounds and is eliminating mistakes."

THE FINAL FOUR OF ILLINI FOOTBALL: The "Final Four" is set. For the last four weeks, Illini fans have had the chance to vote for their favorite former Illini football player in "bracket style." It's now down to the last round of voting and the remaining four are a pair of ESPN All-Century athletes in linebacker Dick Butkus, running back Red Grange, standout running back Jim Grabowski and recent Illini hero quarterback Kurt Kittner. Butkus will go head-to-head with Grabowski in one semifinal match, while the legend Grange battles Kittner in the other dual.

POSITION CHANGES: The defensive line is getting a pair of new faces this spring as offensive line convert junior Kam Buckner moved to the defensive line. Also moving to the d-line is sophomore Will Davis, who switches over from his tight end position.

Story provided by the University of Illinois.

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