Illini Gridders Open Fall Training Camp

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Illinois football team began fall training camp with its first session at Memorial Stadium, Saturday afternoon under 80-degree temperatures. After practice, head coach Ron Zook addressed the media.

"It was a good first practice. I saw a lot more athleticism out there," Zook said. "I think we are in great shape. You can tell that they have been working hard over the summer and not just in the weight room. They accomplished a lot on their own.

"On one hand, the defense looked good today. We had more picks today than I saw all of last year combined," Zook continued. "That means we aren't taking care of the ball, but I think that is part of being the first practice."

THE MORE THE MERRIER: For the first four sessions of training camp, the Illini will work with split squads. With approximately 50 players per group, each session lasts about two and a half hours with practice overlapping for a special teams period in the middle. The smaller groups allow each player to get more reps and a more hands-on approach with the coaching staff.

"It really benefits all the players, but especially the young guys," Zook said following five hours on his feet. "They get more time on the field and quality time with the coaches. Now it means the coaches are out there for a lot longer, but in the end it helps get us ready for later in training camp."

OFF THE FIELD EDUCATION: The team reported to campus on Thursday, but didn't hit the field until Saturday. Many may ask what went on for the team on Friday. With most of the team taking summer school classes, final exams were the main priority on Friday and Saturday morning's docket. In addition to wrapping up summer sessions, the Illini had two seminars on very important subjects for all college athletes — nutrition and leadership.

Both speakers delivered informational sessions, holding court for nearly an hour each. During the nutrition education, hydration, how to gain and maintain weight, and when to eat certain types of food were emphasized.

"There was a lot of information that was new to me," linebacker Rodney Pittman said. "We talked about different body types and proteins and carbs. Most people think it is bad to eat carbs, but as athletes we burn so many calories during a workout. We also learned that we lose a lot of fluids as we eat and that we should drink water early in the morning."

Back by popular demand was Naperville Police Commander David Hilderbrand. The director of Real World Leadership, Hilderbrand brings a unique perspective to college athletes. The focus is on making the right social decisions, which can have a huge impact on an athlete's career.

"Nowadays, if you make a mistake or engage in misconduct in the community, it can affect your athletic future as badly as a torn medial collateral ligament" said Hilderbrand.

Source U of I SID office

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