Sophomore Corey Liuget is labeled a future star at defensive tackle for Illinois. He is big, strong and fast, and he makes plays. As well as he played last year, he says he is much more comfortable with college ball now.
"It's going great so far. The second year in camp, it's good. I know the system, I know how they run things. I know about the meetings and everything. So now it just takes a little focus."
This might surprise his fans, but Liuget was anything from a finished product last fall. He is much more confident having gone through it all before.
"Big difference from last year. I know everything, I know what to expect. Last year, I was running around like a chicken with no head. They had to tell me where I was supposed to be. I was just running everywhere. I didn't know where I was supposed to be, so I was just running."
Liuget is also much stronger and bigger this year. If anything, he may have put on too much weight in the offseason.
"I put on 30 more pounds. Last year I was 280, so now I'm 310. Coach Zook told me to slim it on down a little bit to get my quickness back. I'll be ready by the time the season starts.
"Right now, my bench press is at 405. I've added strength bigtime. Last year, I was around 350."
The Miami, Florida, product is happy with new defensive line coach Keith Gilmore.
"Coach Gilmore is a good coach. He coaches us up on techniques, to keep everything sharp. He says if I've got 85-90% of my technique perfect, most likely I'm gonna win the matchup up front. That's the way for the defensive line to win the game for us.
"As a defensive line, we've made big improvements. We're lining up and coming off the ball harder, and we're using our hands a lot more because that's what Coach Gilmore is emphasizing right now.
"I'm working more on striking my hands, getting off of blocks and making more plays. That's what we plan on doing more as a defense. Getting off our blocks and making more plays in the backfield.
"It's very important to keep the offensive lineman's hands off you. We can shed the blocks and just chase the ball."
Liuget also believes there is more depth at defensive tackle this year.
"Yes sir, we've got depth. We've got Sirod (Williams) back, we've got JB (Josh Brent) back, we've got Daryle (Ballew), Rahkeem (Smith), we've got Buck (Lendale Buckner) and (Akeem) Spence. So we've got a nice amount of depth right now at the defensive tackle."
He has been impressed with the freshmen. Besides Buckner and Spence, defensive end Michael Buchanan has played well enough to see action this season. Only Tim Kynard is not yet practicing due to injury.
"All the freshmen are doing well. Kynard had a little shoulder surgery, but the other guys are doing great."
Besides his work on defense, Liuget is also helping encourage a couple of his defensive line friends from Hialeah High School to consider Illinois.
"Yeah, Corey Lemonier and Calvin Smith. I know those guys. Right now, I'm in camp so I've got to focus on me. But I'm talking to them most definitely about coming here. I'm trying to help lead them in the right direction."