Nate Palmer arrived from Chicago Simeon High School as an athlete looking for his best position.
"I was just an athlete, just a player. I played every position possible on the football field. I thought it was going to be the same coming here, but it was totally different. The smallest thing technique-wise can cause a play to go for six."
After redshirting as a freshman, he practiced at two different linebacker positions last year. Now he is being moved to Bandit where he must be a defensive end part of the time. It is a time-consuming process.
"In spring I played SAM, while in camp I played MIKE. Bandit is different because it's like both an end and linebacker. In high school I played defensive end, so I'm kind of comfortable playing with my hand down. As a Bandit, when I stand up it takes me back to when I played linebacker."
He was moved to Bandit to take advantage of his athleticism and versatility. He may have found a home.
"I like it. I've just got to get the technique down. I think it's gonna be pretty fun playing. I've been trying to work hard, watching extra film, just studying the playbook to get better.
"I feel comfortable playing it, and I got a better feel for playing it. At the beginning of spring I had no clue what it was like, but now I feel comfortable."
Illinois is employing a defense with new schemes this year. The 6'-3", 220 pounder is excited about it.
"I like it. Everybody still has to buy into it. But once we buy into it, I think we'll be one of the best defenses out there."
Palmer professes a love for coaches who make him work hard. He has found that with his position coach Ron West.
"I like him. He's a hard coach. He reminds me of my high school coach. He's really passionate about it. He really wants us to win. He says we have so much potential, he just wants what's best for the team and the defense."
West came to Illinois with new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. Palmer says the two have much in common.
"The exact same. He's very, very passionate. He wants us to be one of the top defenses in the nation. That's what he's striving for."
Palmer even accepted the extra conditioning work required of the defense when pursuit broke down in practice. He understands the importance of the teaching method.
"They want us running to the ball, and we weren't running to the ball. That's one of the critical factors about playing defense. If one guy gets there, he can miss a tackle. If no one else is there, he can go for six."
While he has yet to seem game action as a Bandit, Palmer did become acclimated to Big 10 ball last fall by playing special teams.
"I played a majority of the special teams. My goal if I didn't make the two-deep was to make every special team out there last year as a stepping stone into a player.
"I was a redshirt freshman and was looking at it as my freshman year. It gave me a lot of confidence knowing I can go out there and play against the people in the Big 10 and other conferences."
The Community Health major was in on several tackles in the Spring Game. What he may lack in experience he makes up for with aggressiveness and hunger. Still, he knows he must continue to improve.
"I wouldn't say I was one of the best players, but it was okay. It gave me a little confidence, but it also let me know I've got some room to improve. It's another chance to get better."