Illinois offensive lineman Graham Pocic graduated from Lemont High School in time to take part in winter conditioning and spring ball at Illinois in 2008. Recruited by offensive line coach Eric Wolford, Pocic was eager to get his college career started.
However, he wasn't able to earn playing time last fall on a team that underachieved. And his line coach left for a job at South Carolina. A year that began with much promise ended on a sour note. Fortunately, Pocic decided to make the best of a bad situation.
"Yeah, it was tough, but we've got to move on, roll with the punches."
It was definitely hard to watch the games from the sidelines last fall.
"Yeah, it was. But whatever is best for the team. I'll be a lot better in my redshirt senior year than my freshman year."
Graham also realizes he was not ready to give his best on the football field.
"Last year, I was hesitant every snap, not knowing what to do. But with one year of ball, you learn things like what the defense is doing."
The future is looking brighter now.
"It's going good. I'm learning a lot, a lot of technique stuff."
Pocic says the transition from Wolford to new line coach Joe Gilbert has not been difficult.
"Not really. It's a little different. It's more about technique. I'm learning a lot more, getting better, improving every day."
The 6'-7", 320 pounder has also benefitted from a full year in Coach Lou Hernandez' strength and conditioning program.
"I've lost about 8% body fat, gained a bunch of pounds in my bench (press). So I'm getting stronger, faster, improving my technique. I'm getting ready to play hopefully."
Although he arrived as a right tackle candidate, Graham spent time last fall at both guard spots and center, looking for his best position. Right now, he appears to have settled into left guard where he competes with junior Randall Hunt for playing time. He doesn't mind moving around on the line.
"Whatever it takes to help the team win, that's what I want to do. I have no preference."
Graham and his line mates get a great deal of quality practice going against some talented Illini defensive linemen.
"They're one of the best d-lines in the Big 10. Going against them every day helps you a lot."
Pocic is undecided on a major, but he still has plenty of time for that.
"I may go into RST (Recreation, Sports, Tourism) or Kinesiology."