Freshman Liuget is the Real Deal

With injuries and illness depleting the defensive tackle spots, the Fighting Illini football team turned to a true freshman to fill the void. Corey Liuget started Saturday alongside senior Dave Lindquist, and he asserted himself well. The former high school All-American has a bright future at Illinois.

The 6'-3", 283 pounder out of Hialeah Lakes, Florida, showed no signs of freshman jitters or confusion in his start against Louisiana-Lafayette. He was credited with four tackles including half a tackle for loss, and he had a quarterback hurry. He credited his line coach for his success.

"Coach (Tom) Sims will get you prepared every week," Liuget explained. "It's just simple technique to control your man, and the ball should come to you. I feel comfortable with my whole coaching staff. I love each one of those guys, the things that we do and the way we scheme things.

"It's exciting out there. It's a different atmosphere from high school. The crowd gets you pumped, your teammates get you pumped, so it's a lot of fun out there."

Co-Defensive Coordinator Dan Disch offered praise often reserved for upperclassmen.

"Yeah, great kid. He's doing well and really improving. He got a bunch of reps this last game, and we expect him to build on that. Any position is tough for an entering freshman at this level, but he's got a bunch of ability. He's got a great attitude.

"What gives him a chance is he's a high motor guy. He's the type of guy that's hard to get off the field. As long as he keeps playing with that kind of attitude and emotion, he'll have a chance to help us. He's got a lot of ability, and he wants to play."

Liuget's work ethic was obvious early in summer conditioning work as he was seen leading the linemen up the steps of Memorial Stadium. He was already in top shape and seemed to relish the work.

"Yeah. My coach from high school Steve Smith, he's the head coach at (Miami) Killian right now, he made me into what I am. I'm a workaholic, that's all. Yes, I do enjoy it."

Corey rotated with Lindquist and Josh Brent at the two tackle spots Saturday, but he wanted even more work.

"Hopefully, I'll get to play more. I want to play a little bit on special teams also, but they don't want to risk it. I just want to go down on kickoffs and hit somebody. I really love to hit someone."

A SuperPrep All-American and Rivals top 100 prospect in high school, Liuget picked Illinois over football powers LSU, Miami and Florida State. His speed and quickness allowed him to play multiple positions in high school.

"In high school, I played defensive end, quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, fullback, middle linebacker. I gained 60 pounds from my junior year to my senior year.

"I played a little bit of quarterback my senior year, but it was only a couple plays. I did both running and passing. But I was doing it from shotgun, running the same offense that we run here. After I gained the weight, I was a defensive tackle most of the time."

Adjustment to the college game has occurred rapidly for Corey. He's playing better opponents, but it hasn't bothered him much up to now.

"The speed, the size, the linemen are much quicker. As long as you go hard in practice every play, game time will be easier. It takes awhile to learn everything. That's what I had the whole camp for, to learn the playbook."

The intelligent, bright-eyed Liuget again credits his early training in preparing him for the college game.

"Coach Dane, my defensive line coach, helped me out big time with technique. All the defensive line drills we do here, I did in high school also. So I picked up on everything real fast."

The quick learner had to think a moment before answering a question about what he needs to work on the most.

"Probably just getting off of blocks of the offensive linemen and making a tackle. Making a play, getting to the passer. That's about it."

Corey's thoughts on his best asset as a football player prove him to be a coach's dream.

"It's being fully committed to the team and doing whatever the team needs me to do. Whatever the coach asks me to do, I'll do."

The humble youngster, who is considering a major in Journalism or Speech Communication, puts team goals ahead of self.

"I'm hoping to get to the passer, hoping to win most of all, and just to make my family proud and Illini Nation proud that we're winning."

Corey Liuget is a special prospect who is already making a major contribution to the Fighting Illini football team. His combination of intelligence, hard work, quickness and know-how are rare and special. As will be repeated numerous times throughout his career, Liuget is legit.

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