Tim Kynard came to Illinois from St. John's High School in Toledo, Ohio. He had summer shoulder surgery and was not back to full strength for Camp Rantoul last fall. He spent his days working with Strength and Conditioning Coach Lou Hernandez.
"Coach Lou did a lot for me. I was with him the whole Rantoul. When the players were practicing, I was running and working out the whole practice."
That work continued all fall and winter, and the defensive end is pleased with the changes he's seen in his body.
"I feel like I'm a lot stronger than I was when I first came here. I've cut down 20 pounds, and I feel much faster and stronger."
After a long recovery period, spring was a chance to finally compete for playing time.
"I feel like I'm fully healthy. It's been a lot of rehab. I'm feeling good right now."
Kynard says there were benefits to redshirting.
"I saw that the game moves a lot faster than you'd think. I learned a lot from Clay [Nurse] and [Doug] Pilcher and all of those guys."
The 6'-3", 255 pounder has also benefitted from defensive line coach Keith Gilmore's tutelage.
"Coach Gilmore is a player's coach. He takes criticism, listens to it, and tries to work with us. He gets us in the right places when we need to be.
"Coach Gilmore has helped me use my hands more and get my pad level down. I want to work on being more aggressive and trying to hold my own when double teams come."
He may be biased, but Kynard believes in the quality of the Illini defensive line.
"We are the heart and soul of the team. We're the foundation and the building blocks. I think we are the best group of the whole team."
Kynard also has great respect for defensive coordinator Vic Koenning.
"Coach Vic is crazy. He's cussing at us and all that just to get the defense going and get us excited because he wants to be one of the top defenses in the nation. Off the field, he's really cool. We can call him any time and just talk to him."
He is excited about the potential of the Illinois defense.
"In this defense, we're blitzing a lot more and moving faster. It's something the whole defense likes instead of just standing there and taking it. We're attacking a lot more. Our defense is based on pressure and blitzing."
Defending the new schemes of the Illini offense has proven an interesting challenge.
"Coach [Paul] Petrino's offense is more aggressive than Coach Schultz's offense. It's an aggressive defense going up against an aggressive offense."
While Kynard won't pass judgment on who should be the starting quarterback for Illinois, he does face a special challenge defending Nathan Scheelhaase.
"Nate is a freak of nature. It's hard catching him or at least trying to get in front of him. All of the quarterbacks can throw the ball and run when they need to, but Nate is more of an athlete."