Illini Football Completes Day One at Rantoul

Ron Zook's football team completed their first day at Camp Rantoul on Monday afternoon amid muggy, humid conditions. This report from the University of Illinois Sports Information department highlights the new-look offensive line.

Story courtesy the University of Illinois Sports Information Department
RANTOUL, IL — The Illinois football team took to the practice field again, this time in their second home in Rantoul, Ill. "Camp Rantoul" kicked off with another split practice in muggy, humid conditions, which turned to overcast skies by the time the Orange Squad began.

Today's position group spotlight is on the offensive line. Once one of the question marks of the team this spring, now the line looks to be the most improved and hopes to provide more time for quarterbacks in the pocket, while opening holes for the Illini's trio of talented running backs. The experiment of position switching on the line has already paid dividends with increased athleticism and strength. All five starters now weigh in at over 300 pounds, including a large-bodied 6-6, 320-pound Charles Myles at right tackle. A healthy Akim Millington anchors the left tackle position, while the inside play of guards Martin O'Donnell and Matt Maddox and center Ryan McDonald have offensive line coach Ed Warinner looking forward to the fall season.

Sophomore center Ryan McDonald
On the first day of Camp Rantoul:
"It was a good day. The weather cooled off for the second group a little bit, but it went well. We made a few mistakes, but we haven't put the pads on yet. So it's all timing right now. The first day you want to focus on your footwork and your assignments so that when you put the pads on that's kind of an instinct and you don't need to worry about it."

On potential position battles:
"I definitely think there are going to be some battles for positions this year. We have a lot of guys who can compete. Coach Warriner has said that sometimes he might like to play more than five guys, maybe rotate a couple of guys in. So there will definitely be some competition."

Run-Game Coodinator/Offensive Line Coach Ed Warriner
On the offensive line's first workout at Camp Rantoul:
"We emphasized the fundamentals a tremendous amount at the offensive line positions. We have a lot of time in these early practices to work on those before we have to work on game preparations. We're just trying to fine-tune and get habits developed."

On the position changes along the offensive line
"We've been pretty happy with the moves that we made. We moved Ryan McDonald into center, which was a position he was recruited to come here as and a position he has some experience at. It's a natural position for him. He's an intelligent guy and he can be the quarterback of the offensive line. Matt moved back to the position he had started at for two years at guard. He's a lot more comfortable there."

On the rest of the offensive line:
"The addition of Chuck Myles coming over from defense and Millington transferring in really solidified our tackle spots. Then you have Martin O'Donnell who started for two years at guard and is back, potentially for his third year as a starter at left guard. Plus, we have some guys who are pushing them. Jim LaBonte and James Ryan have both played a lot of football for us. Ben Amundsen is getting better and Eric Block has really come on since the spring."

On Akim Millington:
"He's been a real pleasure to coach. He understands football, loves it and plays very aggressively. He's a natural at left tackle. He brings a certain level of attitude, composure and understanding to the position. He's solid technically and he's a leader, too."

Junior tackle Akim Millington
On his first taste of Camp Rantoul:
"I'm loving Rantoul. The set-up's really nice, like a professional team. You've got the showers, the locker room and the hotel all right here. What more do you need? It's a great town. They love us here and they're really taking care of us. We're just trying to do what we've got to do and take care of business here."

On what the team focuses on during the workouts without pads:
"That's the biggest thing we have to work on when we don't have pads, assignments and communication. Once we get the pads on it's going to get more physical and more aggressive, but as of now we're just trying to get to our blocks and know what to do technically."


Story courtesy the University of Illinois Sports Information Department


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