Eric Block was grateful to hear last winter that he would be granted another year of eligibility. He expected to be gone by now, so getting that extra year is a new lease on life for him.
The New Orleans guard started at guard for Illinois last fall, but he is happier back at his more familiar center position.
"I've played a lot of center since I've been here. I was the backup center last year besides being a starting guard, and I always kept it sharp. It's been fresh in my mind since I was a freshman.
"I think it's my natural position. I enjoy center, and I think I'm probably better at it than guard. It feels good to be back there. It feels a little bit like home, like I'm in the right spot."
As a team leader, Block is quick to counter those who believe the offensive line is the Illini's weak spot on offense. He believes there is no undue pressure to perform.
"That gives us a chip on our shoulder. I don't know about pressure, I think it's the exact opposite. People aren't expecting us to do anything, but we're planning to be a strong point of this offense, of this team. We're not planning on being a question mark, we're planning to be a real good unit.
"It's really important to have a strong offensive line. It starts with us. Juice (Williams) needs time to get the ball off, the running backs need holes to run through. It's our job to get that for them. We plan on doing that."
For offensive linemen, quality begins with teamwork. Defensive linemen are usually more athletic than them. Togetherness and communcation can help counter that athleticism.
"The offensive line is coming together as a nice little family, a cohesive unit. We're around each other alot away from practice, so we're a real close unit. We're getting better at communicating on the field. Everybody is talking, and I know exactly what's going on. I don't even have to look at the defense when I have those guys helping me out.
"Communication has been great this year. It's much improved. Hopefully, we'll continue to improve. I think that'll be a strong point of the offensive line. It's something you need."
Block is also excited about depth on the line this year. While he may be exaggerating a little, he believes in his guys.
"We have more depth than we've had here in my five years I think. We have a ton of guys. We're developing some centers, which is nice because that was a question mark early. We've got some good guys backing me up, and we've got guys backing up at every position."
For someone with another chance at college glory, even the heat and drudgery of fall camp aren't problems. If anything, Block has learned to see positives in everything happening in his extra year.
"The heat is gonna help us with conditioning and help us get better. We've got to learn to deal with it, and deal with fatigue. That's what this is doing."