Illinois coach Ron Zook said that Indianapolis Colt cornerback Kelvin Hayden and New York Giant offensive guard Brandon Moore will be honorary coaches for the Spring Game Saturday. Zook joked he's like to put them in uniform. The original idea was to have Super Bowl opponents Hayden and New Orleans running back Pierre Thomas as coaches, but Thomas had a conflict.
When the media is not permitted to watch a scrimmage, the reaction of the coordinators afterward provides a glimpse of what happened. Both the defense and offense were held afterward for extra work, but the defense was excused quicker than the offense. Since the defense struggled Tuesday, it appears to have learned lessons from previous mistakes.
"The offense was upset, and the defense was upset," Zook said. "So there was some good things on both sides. The defense came back just like you figured they would from Saturday. The offense, other than down in the redzone, (was okay)."
Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning wears his emotions on his sleeve, and he couldn't hide his disappointment about the mistakes made during the scrimmage. But he also realizes the improvement shown since the beginning of spring.
"I still thought we made little mistakes. We didn't contain here or there. We've got a long way to go to learn not to make mistakes. One guy on this play, one guy on that play.
"If you take the first week's practice and watch it, we've come a long, long, long way. But we had an opportunity for two to three more picks we didn't make. We lost our guys in man coverage a couple times. You can't do that. There's too many things to win a ball game. We jumped offsides twice on third and short. There are things we need to focus on and not do. That's why we practice."
Offensive tackle Corey Lewis commented about the offense's effort afterward.
"We played well. When we got to the goal line, we've got to be able to punch it in. That's on us up front. We weren't able to get it in a couple times, which hurt us. Drives went pretty well. In two minute we threw an interception. Everything has to go right for things to click. Like Coach Petrino says, we need to be a fist."
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is a perfectionist. He says he found out some things he needs to work on from the scrimmage.
"It probably wasn't our best scrimmage. There were some things that happened that were a little frustrating. You hate to have those days where you miss something, things you didn't do as well. But in the long run you need to have those things. They're things you can learn from.
"When you make mistakes, they kind of hit you and stick in your mind. I've learned from earlier scrimmages, and I'm gonna take the same steps this time. Obviously, you can't be perfect coming out here every day, but I'm doing my best to try to do that. We definitely want to come out the last two days and have better days than we had today, for sure."
Friday will be a lighter day, but Zook says there is still plenty to learn.
"We'll be in shorts Friday, but we'll be in 7 on 7, blitz, we'll go through a team period. We'll go through how we do pregame. No matter how we split the teams up, we'll warm up as a team."
Overall, Zook has to be pleased with the growth of his young team this spring.
"We've made a lot of progress. I really feel they've got a pretty good idea what we're trying to accomplish. And the coaches have a pretty good idea what the guys can do. It will be important these guys continue to work hard this summer."