Practice Report: April 11

The Illini completed their eighth practice of the Spring on Tuesday afternoon. Ron Zook's Illini focused on short yardage situations, red zone work, and worked on passing in windy situations.

It was business (and windy) as usual on the east fields for Tuesday's practice. The defense went through its regular set of individual drills, and the wide receiving corps put a lot of work into blocking and route running. As a unit, the offense spent a great deal of today's practice working on the "short game," so to speak. They ran lots of short passes, screens, and work on the option. Work was done on the short yardage situations, red zone work, and worked on passing in windy situations.

The ‘Oklahoma' drill produced some good matchups today. J. Leman had an excellent day in the drill, shedding blocks from both an offensive lineman and FB Walter Mendenhall. Chris Norwell had a dominating rep over C Ryan McDonald. If Chris Norwell had Josh Norris's motor, he'd be an NFL lineman. Newly converted FB Sam Porter had a great block of LB Antonio Steele, Remond Willis did a nice job getting off a Martin O'Donnell block, and Chuck Myles had another dominating block of DE Derek Walker that gives you a lot of hope for his future.

  • James Ryan took Matt Maddox's reps at first team guard today, Maddox played 2nd team.
  • Will Davis got a lot of plays at First Team Defensive End. The coaching staff is very excited about Davis at defensive end.
  • JR Kraemer took the reps at First Team Tight End.
  • Antonio Steele and Sam Carson swapped First and Second Team duties at linebacker (Steele at 1, Carson at 2)
  • Paul Blalock took all the reps at second team QB to get him some more reps, Zook just wants him to relax.
  • Justin Sanders saw some first team reps at safety opposite Justin Harrison. Kevin Mitchell took both 1st and 2nd team reps at safety, allowing Sanders to play the nickel back on the first team.
Guard Martin O'Donnell had the play of the day, knocking CB Alan Ball flat on his back while pulling on a screen pass, allowing Jody Ellis to score in a red zone drill.

Quotes from Coach Zook on the battle at right guard:
  • "James (Ryan) has done a heckuva job. He deserves to play just as much as everyone else."
  • "Matt (Maddox) probably has not has as good a spring as we'd have liked him to have had. I think Matt's gotta understand that this is his last year, and he's done a nice job. He's done a good job. But, I guess it's our job…what he thinks is good, and what we think is good…once again we have to raise their expectation level to our expectation level. We think Matt's capable of being a much better player than he's playing right now.

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