Monday saw cooler temperatures and a big drop in humidity, and Tuesday was even cooler as clouds obscured the sun throughout the Illinois football practice. A gentle North wind energized the players and threw a chill into some onlookers unaccustomed to the fairer conditions.
Just like Monday, the defense played with great intensity most of the day. The offense always fires up as well, making for some interesting battles. The Illini offense had problems running the ball in 11 on 11 situations. Martez Wilson was dominant throughout.
In addition, Nate Bussey sacked Nathan Scheelhaase, and Akeem Spence did likewise later in the practice. Miami Thomas got into the action by breaking up a pass from Chandler Whitmer, which had to boost his self-confidence after a rough beginning. Evan Frierson stuffed a Justin Green run.
Offensive highlights included freshman Anthony Williams making a great catch on a long sideline throw from Whitmer. Scheelhaase hit freshman Ryan Lankford on a come-backer for a key first down. And Miles Osei hit Lankford on a long crossing pattern for a TD.
Whitmer found Jarred Fayson for good yardage before throwing long to freshman tight end Evan Wilson along the sideline. And Osei ended the practice by finding freshman fullback Jay Prosch on a wheel route for a touchdown.
Scheelhaase is good at drawing the defense offside with his snap count. Defenders know to be aware of it, but they sometimes get sucked in anyway as he changes the intensity of his voice. It is just another reason Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino trusts him as starting quarterback despite his youth.
"I don't look at Nathan as a freshman because he's a great leader, he's studied hard, he's tough and he knows himself," Petrino states. "He doesn't handle himself like a freshman."
Despite concerns over inexperience and a lack of depth, defensive line coach Keith Gilmore believes his guys are improving.
"We lack consistency at this point. We're not where we need to be, but we're not as far away from the best we could be to this point. We're doing pretty well right now."
It has helped that his players are all healthy at this point.
"We're in great shape. The only concern we had going in was Clay Nurse, coming back from shoulder surgery. But he's fine, he's played full tilt. I think we're gonna be pretty good."
Gilmore still has plenty of things to teach his defensive linemen.
"Our focus is on giving up the football, reading our keys, and minimizing our missed assignments. What we talked about more than anything was getting off the football, coming off at a different speed and creating a new line of scrimmage."
The Illini continue with double sessions Wednesday morning and evening.