Nate Palmer is competing for playing time at the strongside (SAM) linebacker position with Ian Thomas, Justin Staples and others on the Illinois football team. He has good potential, but it is taking him awhile to learn a new position.
"It's going all right. So far, it's been kind of tough because I'm still getting accustomed to playing linebacker. In high school, I mainly played defensive end. But it's coming along. It ain't easy, but it's not hard. I'm gonna get it."
The SAM backer must cover the opposing tight end on pass routes and neutralize blocking from the tight end and tackle on running plays. Learning the complexities of the position takes time, so Nate is grateful to have a year to learn without losing eligibility.
"Redshirting was a value to me because I had a chance to get bigger. I came in a little undersized. And then I was watching film with the linebacker coach at least three times a week. So I was really learning the stuff even though I was on the scout team. So it really wasn't a problem. And then the practice was a plus too."
Getting into a college weight training program was especially helpful in building up his weight and strength.
"When I came in as a freshman, I was 210 pounds. Now, I weigh 230, 235. My lower body was always strong, but it improved. And in my upper body, I didn't lift a lick in high school. So I've seen big leaps in the weight room. I'm benching 300 and something."
Palmer had been lifting and conditioning since last summer, but Winter Conditioning was still a shock for him at first.
"The first couple days were tough, but it got better after that. I guess everybody was out of shape the first two days, but as we got in shape it got better."
Nate has some assets that make him ideal for the SAM position.
"My athleticism and speed, my quickness off the edge. Since I played defensive end, I've got a couple pass rush moves."
Of course, he still has much to learn to put his natural athleticism to good use.
"Covering, pretty much all the linebacker things. I never really covered before. And then how to read the offensive line."
The 6'-3" Chicago Simeon athlete is also competing for a spot on the kickoff and kickoff return teams. He began to assert himself as spring ball proceeded. Little by little, his confidence grew, and he began to give more hits than he received. He is still a work in progress, but he wants playing time this fall.
"Yeah, it's a tight race. That's what the coach said. We will know who's starting when we come out of Camp."
Nate Palmer is thinking about a major in Kinesiology.