It's been a while since we've written about Illinois football with all this basketball going on, but in case you forgot, spring practice is still going on. The Illini were in Chicago on Friday for both a practice at Gately Stadium -- a practice Tim Beckman wants to make an annual event -- and for a press conference at Soldier Field about our game against Washington there next season.
After that practice on Friday, which was an open practice, there were quite a few people impressed with junior college receiver Martize Barr. Barr enrolled in January, and he's not wasting time making an impression.
"He is doing great," receivers coach Mike Bellamy told Rivals. "Initially when he first got here he was kind of shell-shocked being from junior college and I thought he was a little over weight. But as things have transpired he has probably been the most pleasant surprise that we've had.
Everyone will be surprised with the explosiveness that he has and his playmaking ability. He is going to be one of those guys to have the ball in his hands and make things happen."
Now, it's important to remember that this is still spring practice. There's a large difference between March and September, plus spring practice is a lot like spring training in baseball -- happy Opening Day, by the way -- in that everybody is in the best shape of their life and we're all going to win the World Series.
Optimism is not in short supply this time of year.
That being said, it's still good to hear from multiple parties that Barr is performing well, because in the new offense the Illini will be running next season, receivers are going to be important, and this is an offense that certainly needs improvement in that area.
Let's not forget that our leading receiver last year was Ryan Lankford, who finished with 37 catches for 469 yards and 5 touchdowns. Numbers that really aren't all that impressive to begin with, but look worse after you remember Lankford had 23 receptions for 347 yards and 4 touchdowns before the end of September.