Hubie Graham came to Illinois last fall as a highly rated tight end out of West Scranton High School in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Illinois had a need for tight ends, and Hubie had the potential to help. Playing time was almost assured from the beginning.
Graham worked hard and earned playing time in all 12 games. He participated in 109 snaps on offense and 44 special team plays. He caught his first two passes for 25 important yards against Iowa. He did well for a raw freshman, but he is much farther along now than last fall.
"At camp last fall as a freshman, I was running around not really knowing where to go. From August until now, I've seen a big improvement in my composure. I go out there and know what I'm doing and I'm comfortable. I've been able to just start playing football again."
Hubie no doubt was pressing through much of last season. Coach Jim Pry was his position coach last fall, and he said Graham was a typical nervous freshman. He knew that if Hubie missed passes in pregame warmups, he would have the same problem in the games. Catching those two passes against Iowa was important to help him relax and let the game slow down for him.
It was also important having Michael Hoomanawanui around to show him the ropes. Michael is evolving into an outstanding tight end, both as a blocker and receiver. He is teaching Graham what he needs to replace him after this upcoming season.
"Having Uh-Oh in front of me is probably the best thing I could possibly have in this type of situation. I can learn from him. He's a great tight end. He knows what to do and has been through everything, the good times and the bad times. Having somebody to look up to like that is definitely a positive."
The 6'-4", 245 pounder was rated as a four-star prospect and the #12 tight end in the nation as a senior in high school. He has the physical tools for success, and he also has the work ethic. He wants to improve on every aspect of his job.
"I want to work on everything. I just want to become a better all-around football player. I want to work on my composure, catching, technique, blocking, and anything to help me get better."
With that type of drive and determination, he will no doubt reach his personal goals. He also feels having Offensive Coordinator Mike Schultz as his tight end coach is an asset to him. Whereas Pry had to split his time between tight ends and slot receivers last year, Schultz works solely with the tight ends.
"Having a pure tight ends coach is one of the best things that could have happened to the tight end position here. We are able to focus a lot more on our technique and what we have to do as a position.
"Coach Schultz brought in a lot of intensity, and he expects us to be leaders on the football team. He expects nothing but the best, so we come out here and play hard."
Hubie is also excited about the new twists Coach Schultz brings to the offense as coordinator.
"Coach Schultz came in and a put a little bit of a different spin on things. We have the same offense, but the techniques are a little different. We're trying to work on our techniques and fundamentals and come out and play tough football."