Now Is The Time For Tackle Ryan Palmer

The Fighting Illini spread offense requires rangy, mobile tackles who can get downfield and make secondary blocks in addition to controlling the line of scrimmage. Only a few linemen are talented enough to meet these requirements, but Ryan Palmer may be one of them.

The redshirt sophomore from Glen Oak high school in Canton, Ohio, was one of the first subs on the offensive line last fall and filled in frequently for senior Akim Millington when injured. At 6'-7" and 300 pounds, Palmer looks the part and believes he has earned the opportunity.

"Yes, right now I'm first string replacing Akim Millington from last year at right tackle. Yes, it feels good. The offseason was nice, we had 6:00am's and my team actually won. I've been in the weight room and doing extra workouts on off days and Sundays. I worked hard in the offseason."

Ryan is versatile enough to play both tackle spots. With left tackle being the most important line position, he is also the first sub for starter Xavier Fulton.

"X (Fulton) had class yesterday, so I'm the first one to go over to the left side and replace X. I play both sides, that's my job."

Palmer has even been tried at guard, although this was primarily to help him overcome one of his two main weaknesses.

"I played guard my last year in Rantoul, just to get me lower. That's the only reason why. It's hard. I try every day to get low. Coach always says, 'get low, get low.' That's my main thing to work on right now."

As is true with many tall, rangy linemen, gaining strength is his other main concern.

"Strength's been hard to get for my entire life. I always try to do extra, taking supplements like Creatine and Protein. It's always been a tough thing, but this offseason I'll probably just live in the weight room and get stronger for the season. Definitely, my strength and playing low are the biggest things I need to work on. Everything else is fine."

Line coach Eric Wolford is reluctant to play anyone who hasn't perfected technique and gained his trust. But Palmer played enough last year to earn a letter as a first year player. That experience will help him this year.

"The experience last year definitely helped me. Especially the Rose Bowl. I got in twice. You can't buy experience. It's great to get on the field and experience the game play and the crowd noise. Nothing's better."

Well, one thing would have been better. The Illini were a young team, in awe of their surroundings, so they regret the way they played in the Rose Bowl.

"We hadn't been there in who knows how long. Being out there was great. It was one of the best experiences of my life. We want to go back there this year. Our motto now is Big Ten Champs, then the Rose Bowl and win it."

Ryan downplays the big victory at Ohio State, but all Ohio athletes love to beat the Buckeyes on their home field.

"I'm from Ohio, so we go to their place and whip them, it's great. They recruited me a little bit, but they didn't offer. I love it here, so that's all that matters."

Palmer mentions two defensive end opponents who were a challenge for him last year.

"I went against Lawrence Jackson in the Rose Bowl. I'll remember that. And #92 (Matt Schaughnessy) from Wisconsin was pretty good too."

But he believes the most talented opponents he has faced wear the Orange and Blue.

"I honestly think we have the best d-ends in the Big Ten. D-Walk (Derek Walker), Will Davis, Doug Pilcher, Jerry Brown, Antonio James, all of them are great. Clay Nurse, he can jump the ball with any of them. He's probably the best off the line. They're all number one guys. Big time."

The Speech Communications major also praises his offensive line coach.

"Coach Wolford is a great guy. He's very intense, he always gets us up. He always makes sure we're ready. He's a great coach."

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