The simmering pot of spring practice stew is about to erupt into a rolling boil for the Illinois Fighting Illini. The first open recruiting period began today and Lovie Smith wasted no time taking advantage:
Coach Smith FaceTime 12:01 pic.twitter.com/BNOc4soI46— Garrick McGee (@GarrickMcGee) April 15, 2016
Big Recruiting Weekend
Personally, Coach Smith is not too concerned about his lengthy and successful NFL career hurting his ability to recruit. Setting aside the extent to which that sentence is laughable, now's the time that Lovie's staff can show their recruiting chops as two highly-touted in-state prospects will be in attendance for Saturday's open practice.
Gurnee Warren Township's Micah Jones is the 2nd-highest-rated recruit in Illinois for 2018 according to 247sports, and the receiver has other offers from Iowa, Northwestern and Vanderbilt.
Chicago Marist linebacker Micah Awodiran will also be in Champaign and will hopefully pick up some insight on how to sort out his ever-growing offer list, which includes Penn State, Iowa and Notre Dame. 247sports ranks him as the 10th-best 2017 player in the state.
After getting none of the top 25 players in Illinois for 2016, having two top-10 players visit bodes well.
Speaking of Saturday, the Fighting Illini will have the equivalent of a "Spring Game" tomorrow. They are not quite willing to call it a spring game, as it's more of an open practice. Official details can be found here; unfortunately, it will not be televised since BTN apparently has better things to do:
@Broneill217 @JWernerScout Can confirm this. W/ format change, will not be streamed. We'll have highlights on Spring Football show at 9 ET— Big Ten Network (@BTN_HelpTeam) April 13, 2016
The biggest change to the offense by far is the implementation of the huddle. Wes Lunt will be running a huddle offense for the first time in his college career. His high school even ran a no-huddle offense; this will be unfamiliar territory for him. Garrick McGee clearly wants to bring a more deliberate pace to the Illini offense than Bill Cubit did, and the execution of this offensive unit will be a big storyline tomorrow. Hardy Nickerson has been emphasizing aggression on the ball during tackles; in other words, the classic Charles Tillman ball-strip is becoming a way of life for Fighting Illini defensive backs.
Lovie Smith won't coach his first game for the Fighting Illini for over four months and yet he's already brought something for which Illini fans have been starved: positive press and genuine intrigue. Folks have found themselves really grasping at straws to find the negative aspects of this program's leadership.
Stay tuned for The Champaign Room's coverage of the open practice.