Veteran Pilcher Tough Guy on D-Line

Illinois has a plethora of outstanding defensive ends, and Coach Ron Zook and his staff keep recruiting top players. Depth is needed to keep pressure on opposing quarterbacks. But no matter how good the young ones are, they still aren't able to beat out veteran Doug Pilcher.

The Hinsdale Central athlete committed originally to Ron Turner and maintained that promise when Zook took over as head coach. After a redshirt year, Doug has played excellent ball for two years and still has two to play. It seems he has been here forever.

"It's my fourth year. I'm getting old. It feels good, though. I'm one of the oldest now, so I know what's going on."

As is true of all older players, Pilcher has a paradoxical view of the passage of time.

"Time has gone fast. I mean, it's got its slow points and fast points. (Camp Rantoul) is a slow point, it seems to take a long time going through. But the season goes fast, and you've got to go after every game."

Considered a co-starter with All-Star Will Davis, Doug now realizes he must become a leader for the younger players so they can provide needed depth for the team.

"We've got a lot of young guys, so I need to be loud. We've got a lot of seniors and guys with experience, so we need to do our job. They want to come in and contribute right away, and that's good for us. We're great on defense and have a lot of experience, but every help we can get is all the better.

"We've got a ton of guys on the d-line. We're gonna give the young guys a lot of reps and get as many reps as we can each, and just keep getting better."

Doug's physical development has been enhanced by working with Coach Lou Hernandez. Like most of the players, he continues to build muscle mass while lowering body fat.

"I'm staying about 265, but this summer I cut my weight down with all the running and stuff. I keep going up with my strength. Lou does a great job with us.

"I'm benching around 385 right now. Each year you add 10-15 pounds (in the bench press). With all the sweating and running around you do, you lose body fat but gain muscle. That's what I and most of the guys have been doing. You feel more athletic, you feel you can move better but still have that strength. You're a little quicker off the ball."

He is also a proponent of his position coach Tom Sims.

"Sims keeps us working hard, but he tries to have fun at the same time. We know what we're working for, but at the same time it's ok to laugh, it's ok to have fun and joke around. But when we need to be serious, he keeps it serious. We know what he expects from us."

Sims is experimenting with using defensive ends at tackle for passing downs to improve the pass rush. Pilcher has practiced some at tackle.

"Sims has talked with me about that. He wants me to know the positions inside and out. The past couple camps I've worked both, so whatever the team needs. If we need a pass rush and get some fast guys inside while keeping our guys on the outside, then that's what we're gonna do."

Pilcher joined the Illini when the program was at low ebb, so he has participated directly in the transformation to a Rose Bowl team with a bright future.

"Those first two years were pretty rough, kind of a learning process. We started recruiting and getting more great players in here, so getting to go to the Rose Bowl was a great feeling. It's great to go against the best. To be the best, you've got to go against the best.

"There's some great teams in the Big Ten, but USC is a great team. So we know where we need to get, and that's what we're working on right now.

"We're going in expecting to win all our games. Last year, we were hoping to win those games. This year, we know what we can do, we know what we're capable of, so starting off game one we're gonna take it to them."

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