If you're looking for hot Spring game takes, this probably won't be the recap for you. Everything that just happened in the Spring game should be taken with at least three buckets of salt. There just isn't much to gain from a scrimmage that pits two weird depth chart mash-ups against each other.
An exhibition though it was, we can at least pretend like the Illini just played a real game. I plan on going back and taking a harder look at the game via the BTN2Go replay, but here are some initial reactions to the 2014 Spring game, brought to you in Mark Primiano's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" format (minus the Italian):
- Paul James III! The freshman defensive end was supposed to be a part of the program last year but had some academic issues and was unable to participate. He made a nice impact today, finishing with two sacks and four total tackles for loss. Pressure was nearly impossible to come by for the defense in 2013. If James III can scoot past offensive linemen like that in the future, he'll find himself with a bunch of playing time.
- Tim Beckman did not draw a sideline interference penalty, perhaps because he was walking on the actual field for most of the game. This could be a good strategy next year.
- RB Josh Ferguson had a tough start, fumbling on his first carry, but finished with 61 yards on 11 carries and reminded fans he still has the crazy agility he showed last season.
- Reilly O'Toole actually did end up with the best performance of all the quarterbacks, ending his day with 156 all-purpose yards and two touchdown passes.
- V'Angelo Bentley had an 89-yard pick six! He is still fast.
- Wes Lunt wasn't all that impressive today. He was limited to just four or five drives but you'd still like to see a better performance than 6-for-16 for 99 yards and an interception. He did have one spectacular throw to Justin Hardee down the right sideline for a 41-yard completion as well as three or four catchable passes that were simply dropped by receivers. It's also worth noting that he appeared to have several miscommunication issues with his receivers.
- Aaron Bailey was also limited offensively, largely because of the no-contact tackling of the quarterback. Put simply, it's a lot easier to put your hands on Bailey than it is to actually tackle him.
- Sadly, we didn't get to see either of the starting tight ends (LaCosse, Davis) due to injury. Their replacements dropped a couple of easy balls. We also missed out on freshman phenom WR Mikey Dudek.
- Injuries during the Spring game suck. I only saw two unfortunate men go down hurt, those being senior RB Donovonn Young and sophomore LEO Kirk Roberts. Roberts came back to the field on crutches, but luckily Donovonn returned to take a few snaps late in the game.
- There were a couple of bad punts today by both Justin DuVernois and Ryan Frain. There was a great deal of wind throughout the stadium (just ask my hair), but good field position will be important in helping this defense improve next year.
- The Orange team defense really struggled to stop the Blue offense today, but I couldn't tell if there was a specific unit letting them down. I should be able to find out some more when I re-watch the game.