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Illinois News: Football is back for the Fighting Illini

Spring practice got underway on Friday as the Lovie Smith Era began in Champagin

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Ahhh what a time to be alive. Football is back for the Illinois Fighting Illini and I have to keep pinching myself that Lovie Smith is manning the sidelines for the Illini. There isn't much set in stone after a single practice in the spring, but here are a few links to whet your appetite on the latest around the Illinois football program.

DiLauro proving himself to Smith, Butkus

~Via the News-Gazette

It's not much surprise to see Joe Spencer anchoring the center of the Illinois offensive line, and Christian DiLauro, along with Austin Schmidt, were thrown into the fire early into their careers with mixed success. Smith and offensive line coach Luke Butkus had better hope that those early experiences (DiLauro made 19 starts in two seasons, Schmidt has made 16 starts) pay off this year for an offensive line with a lot of question marks. Highly touted prospects Gabe Megginson and Nick Allegretti project to fill in at the guard positions, but neither has significant playing experience at the collegiate level.

Inexperienced Illini linebackers learn from a legend

~Via Scout

Illinois is especially thin at linebacker heading into the 2016 season. TJ Neal transferred to Auburn, Lakeith Walls and BJ Bello also trasnferred, Julian Jones' status is up in the air following a sexual assault arrest in November, in addition to losing key contributors, such as four-year starter Mason Monheim, to graduation last year. Tre Watson, James Crawford, and Mike Svetina (yes, he's still around after losing most of the past two season due to a foot injury) figure to be the starters, but behind those three, the Illini are limited to mainly incoming freshmen. I guess it's a good thing Lovie is a defensive coach?