Illini Players Back On The Field After Finals

The Fighting Illini football team let off some steam Friday as practices resumed for the Rose Bowl after an intense and tiring week of final exams. Some players were obviously tired and distracted, but Coach Ron Zook was pleased with the team's progress.

"In terms of excitement, we probably couldn't ask for any more," said Zook after practice. "Our intensity, we couldn't ask for any more. We were a little rusty probably, but we weren't as rusty today as the day we first came back. And I think with tomorrow and what we're doing next week, we're going to be ready to go."

Players practiced in shorts, but they'll don full pads for the Saturday morning session. Scrimmaging will be included in the agenda according to Zook.

"We'll get after it a little bit tomorrow, and then we'll probably get one next week, and then we'll be ready."

Scrimmaging in front of assembled recruits Saturday was probably intentional. Seven more promising athletes were scheduled for official visits this weekend. Among those spotted were wide receiver Cordale Scott and his Cleveland Glenville line teammate Shawntel Rowell, Champaign running back Mikel Leshoure, wide receiver Brodrick Scott out of Kansas, and linebacker Evan Frierson from Washington, D. C. Woodson.

Scott would be a major pickup should he choose the Illini. The prized recruit comes from a long line of outstanding players from his high school, the best of whom have generally chosen Ohio State. His coach is Ted Ginn, Sr., father of star receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. Cordale appears taller than his listed height of 6'-2", and he seemed to be having a good time.

Coach Zook never admits to being tired of all the travel recruiting requires. As Illinois has become more national in its recruiting scope, Zook has needed to take longer and more frequent recruiting trips. But he understands that travel for recruiting is a necessity.

"That's part of it. It's the way it is. You go where they are. If you've got a chance to get them, you don't worry about distance. Don't worry about the mule going blind now, just load the wagon. I was only gone three days this week. This is what you want to be doing this time of year."

Marcus Thomas continues to impress at a cornerback spot. He seems to have outstanding awareness, vision and anticipation. As he continues to mature and gain experience, he will no doubt press starter Dere Hicks for playing time. Marcus received praise several times for individual plays, and he made one interception on a deflection off the hands of Arrelious Benn.

Quarterbacks Juice Williams and Eddie McGee took awhile to get warmed up, but they gained accuracy as the day wore on. McGee did throw an interception early, but Chris Duvalt made a great play on the ball, diving full out to gather in the errant throw. Juice Williams hit Benn in stride for a long touchdown. Brian Gamble short-armed a sure TD on another long Juice throw.

Saturday's practice will be the last one open to the public and media. Beginning Tuesday, the Illini will start preparations for USC. Media will be permitted to join the fun the last ten minutes, in time for some interviews.

The Rose Bowl has many activities planned for the Illini. However, none of them will prevent Coach Zook and his staff from following normal game week patterns once in California.

"It'll be a normal game week for us. During school, you've got school. Instead of going to school, they'll be able to do whatever the bowl activities have for us. I've been through this before, we'll be all right."

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