Individual Battles Heat Up on Third Day

The third and final day of split squad work was completed Wednesday for the Illini football team at Camp Rantoul. The whole squad practices together from now on. Everyone seemed uplifted by the knowledge their Monday evening scrimmage will be held at Rantoul High School.

In past years, the Illini have held an open scrimmage for fans at Bill Walsh Field in Rantoul on a Saturday evening during the preseason. A Saturday scrimmage was not possible this year. After all, it would only be one day after they first donned their full equipment.

Now, their second Monday practice session will be held at the high school rather than at Camp Rantoul, beginning at 6:15pm. This will allow more fans to view the current squad in action prior to their upcoming season.

Practice intensity began to rise on this third day of camp. First, the coaches were pushing for more from their players. They won't allow complacency or the heat to limit the team's growth.

Then, the players let their competitiveness come out. Trash talk was on the increase, and there were a couple mild skirmishes. Intensity and competitiveness are essential during a grueling 12-game schedule.

Freshmen cornerback Tavon Wilson and receiver Cordale Scott had a couple interesting encounters during 7 on 7 drills. The first time, Tavon used physicality to keep Cordale from gaining separation and then reached around to break up the pass attempt.

The next time the two met, Scott matched strength with strength, pushing Wilson backward so he could turn around and grab the pass for a good gain. This was quality on quality, and both looked like winners.

In the first session, Eddie McGee had mixed success with his passing. Including both 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 work, he completed 12 of 20 passes. He misfired on a couple and had a couple dropped. And cornerback Antonio Gully and MIKE linebacker Sam Carson each broke up passes intended for Will Judson.

Judson was one of McGee's favorite targets, along with Troy Pollard, Mikel LeShoure, Jack Eastman, Jason McGoey and rookie tight end London Davis. Greg McClendon leaped high to pull down a McGee pass over the 5'-10" cornerback Pat Nixon, causing secondary coach Mike Woodford to shout, "You gotta play big!"

Travon Bellamy and Marcus Thomas both intercepted passes from walkon Sean Anderson. In 11 on 11 run action, defensive tackles Josh Brent and Sirod Williams stuffed Pollard for no gain, and d-ends Doug Pilcher and freshman Ugo Uzodimza did likewise. Troy had his positive moments also, including a substantial run through a big hole provided by young linemen Corey Lewis and Jack Cornell.

In the second session, quarterback Juice Williams continued to demonstrate his poise and accuracy. He enjoyed a better completion percentage than any other qb on the day. Williams utilized a number of receivers, including Daniel Dufrene, Jason Ford, Chris Duvalt, Jeff Cumberland, Jarrod Fayson and A. J. Jenkins.

Freshman quarterback Jacob Charest continues to demonstrate promise for the future, but several of his throws were slightly off the mark during the situational work. He did fire completions to Cumberland, Dufrene, Duvalt, Scott and slot receiver Jack Ramsey, among others.

Charest also showed good speed on a rollout run which would have gained more than 10 yards in a regular game. Offensive guard Jon Asamoah wiped out freshman defensive end Glenn Foster on the play.

Dufrene continues to run hard, and his pass receiving is much improved. For a rookie, Ford did a number of good things. Besides catching a couple swing passes for good gains, he also showed promise on options and quick pitchouts.

However, defensive end Derek Walker initiated Jason into big-time college football by exploding on him in the backfield once. Also for the second group, Ashante Williams broke up a long pass from Juice to Duvalt. And junior college transfer safety Donsay Hardeman corralled an interception off a pass from Charest that tipped off the outstretched hands of freshman tight end Hubie Graham.

In position drills, a number of defensive linemen continue to impress. It will be quite a sight when Coach Sims gets all his troops on the field at the same time. It is by far the deepest area of the team.

Freshman defensive tackle Corey Liuget is highly regarded, and he continued to show why. He still has much to learn, but his techniques are advanced for a newcomer. On three successive plays against defenders posing as offensive linemen, Liuget used the correct techniques each time. Sims normally expects to offer teaching tips after every effort, but all he could do was giggle. It isn't often one finds him speechless.

Anthony Santella continued to demonstrate the most consistency with his punting, booming several long ones with most being spirals. Freshman Jack Ramsey was tried as a punt returner. If he can master the nuances of the position and earn the trust of his coaches, fans will enjoy Jack's excellent speed and moves.

The Illini suffered their first injury of camp when offensive lineman Jeff Allen went down with what appeared to be a leg injury. He was able to put some weight on it, but he was driven from the field, probably for X-rays.

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