Illinois Legends Butkus and Grange Battle for Favorite Former Illini Title
CHAMPAIGN, IL - The Illinois football team wrapped up spring practice number four Tuesday afternoon on the East Practice Fields with a full-padded effort which included the return of quarterback Tim Brasic, defensive end Xavier Fulton and wide receiver Spencer Jensen. After practice, Brasic greeted the media for the first time this spring.
"I am just glad to be back," Brasic said. "As soon as I was told (I would miss a week of practice) I immediately apologized to the guys in the locker room. I let them down. I also went over and apologized to (athletic director) Mr. Guenther. I am just happy to be back. I love playing football."
"Tim was a little rusty today, but it was good to have him back," head coach Ron Zook said. "He was the guy who took most of our snaps at quarterback last year, so it was good to have that experience back.
"(He was only out a week) That is a good sign that he has done everything we asked of him. Nobody likes to punish someone, but sometimes you have to take something away," Zook continued. "Being the quarterback at the University of Illinois is a big responsibility."
BRACETOLOGY - BUTKUS VS. GRANGE: The NCAA basketball tournament bracket may be finalized, but there is still one bracklet left to fill out - and that is the selection of Illinois Favorite Former Illini Football Player. The finalists come as no surprise as the school's two most decorated players, linebacker Dick Butkus and running back Red Grange, make the championship match. Butkus beat RB Jim Grabowski, while Grange defeated QB Kurt Kittner to advance. Fans have a chance to vote until the end of the day Wednesday, April 5 and results will be posted on Thursday, April 6. To vote, log on to CoachRonZook.com.
SCOUTING THE WIDE RECEIVERS: Last spring, fans may have heard Coach Ron Zook talk about the lack of numbers at the wide receiver position. This spring, the squad has added some depth, giving the group more competition for the coveted starting positions. The corps from a year ago is nearly intact with the loss of only one senior in Kendrick Jones. The squad does return starters in junior DaJaun Warren, and sophomores Jody Ellis, Kyle Hudson and Derrick McPhearson.
Assistant Coach Dino Dawson on the wide receivers
"I feel better this spring from an experience perspective and with our total numbers. Last year we didn't have Jody (Ellis), we didn't have "Lightning" (Kyle Hudson) and we didn't have "D-Mac" (Derrick McPhearson)."
"We are running our routes a lot better and I think we are improving in our blocking. In the first two days this year, we had already doubled the assignment installment that we did all of last year because we aren't having to teach the tempo of practice."
on the changes in positions
"The changes have allowed to go deep more with Kyle, take advantage of our boundary passing with Derrick (McPhearson) because of his physicalness. Jody (Ellis) is a smooth route runner and it helps to have him inside and DaJuan (Warren) is so experienced after playing all three receiver positions last fall."
Sophomore Derrick McPhearson
"I think we're making some strides so far this spring. We're going to have a young group next year, so now it's important for everyone to learn as much as they can."
"I think we have a lot of potential. Our receiving skills are good and we have a lot of speed and quickness, we just have to work on knowing the plays and learning how to execute to play to our full potential. We have to figure out how to put everything together."
Sophomore Jody Ellis
"I think out effort has been great. We've made some mistakes, but we're learning from them. We've been focusing a lot on blocking and understanding the routes. With this system we need to know what to do in a lot different situations. The more you can soak in now, the easier it will be when the season comes around."
"I'm trying to step-up and become more of a leader. I'd like the young guys like Marques and the guys we'll have coming in this fall to look to me as a leader."
Press release provided by the University of Illinois