Uzodinma Likes Physical Play At Tackle

It takes a special type of athlete to play defensive tackle. He must have size, strength and quickness, and he must love to wrestle with mammoth offensive linemen. Ugo Uzodinma came to Illinois as a defensive end, but he actually prefers the physicality inside. Even undersized, Ugo has impressed Illini coaches and fans with his potential.

Ugochukwu Uzodinma is just completing his second semester at Illinois, but he already enjoys a comfort level.

"Definitely, it feels like home. Illinois is like home to me, all these guys here are good company."

The Washington, D. C. Dunbar High School athete is enjoying his first spring practice.

"It's going good. I'm out there playing with a lot of emotion and passion."

Ugo wasn't ready to see playing time last fall. He realizes he will be better as a fifth year senior than a raw freshman.

"The redshirt was definitely of value for me because I got to work on a lot of things, the simple things that matter a lot."

The intense winter conditioning period at the beginning of second semester required an adjustment from him.

"Yeah, it definitely did. I had a little injury when I was going through it, and I had to tough it out. Getting up so early was a little bit of a shock."

Uzodinma has gained 20 pounds of muscle as a result of the weight training.

"I've gotten stronger with the bench (press), stronger squat. Lou (Coach Hernandez) has been working us hard. I want to work on getting stronger every day. Work hard in the weight room, give it 110%."

Moved from defensive end to tackle, the 6'-4", 260 pounder has definitely benefitted from the extra weight and strength, and he realizes he has more to go. But he likes the move.

"I can play either. I just like playing football. I liken myself as a physical player, so I do like inside a bit better. There's more action."

Every day, Ugo goes against senior Jon Asamoah, one of the top returning offensive linemen in the Big 10. He likes the challenge.

"Asamoah is good, he's strong, he's physical. He's gonna make me better. I'm a little light still, but I can hold my own. My quickness helps."

That quickness is one of his best attributes.

"Even though I'm light, I'm real physical. I just like to put my head in there. And I have a quick first step."

He is eager to work on his weaknesses so he can see playing time.

"I have to work on getting my technique down. I still have a lot of work to do on that. So when I get that all figured out, I'll be good to go."

Uzodinma says the transition from Coach Tom Sims to Coach Keith Gilbert has been a smooth one for him.

"Every coach has their own style, but I love Coach Gilmore to death. He's a great coach. There have been no difficulties. Coach Gilmore came in and took charge. I'm just following him."

Ugo already has a good idea what he wants to do when his playing days are over.

"My major is Urban Planning right now. I want to be involved with inner city design."


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