Lovie Smith held his first weekly press conference as head coach of the Fighting Illini on Monday. We’ll embed the full video once the athletic department makes it available, but for now here are some quick takeaways from his latest media session.
- Lovie has historically kept things very quiet on the injury front, but he did confirm that the team made it through training camp without any serious incidents. Additionally, he seemed pretty thrilled about not being required to release a weekly injury report.
- Illinois will name four team captains this year (two on offense, two on defense), and those roles will be maintained for the entire season. Lovie also stated that there will be a weekly special teams captain to accompany that group. This system is a change from recent years as the Illini used to hold votes every week.
- The Fighting Illini received a day off on Monday, so they’ll return to the practice fields on Tuesday to continue their preparation for Murray State.
- The coaching staff has starters set at every position. Once game week rolls around, none of those players will be competing for jobs — the focus will be on the opponent at hand.
- Lovie discussed the reasoning behind starting two underclassmen — Julian Hylton and Tre Watson — on defense.
#illini Lovie: Julian Hylton has great athletic ability, as fast as anyone on team, jumps as high as anyone. Smart. Just inexperienced.— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) August 29, 2016
#illini Lovie: Tre Watson has played all three LBpositions. Smart, instinctive. Got himself in position for playing time. Inexperienced.— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) August 29, 2016
- While kick returners and punt returners weren’t included on the depth chart, the coaches have already made their decisions. I'm just as confused as you are.
- Yes — Wes Lunt will be Illinois’ starting quarterback this year, and Lovie reiterated this stance in the only way he knows how.
#illini Lovie: "Depth-chart wise (pause), Wes Lunt is our quarterback."— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) August 29, 2016
- While there are only two true-freshmen listed on the initial depth chart, Lovie informed media members that he won’t be afraid to play first-year players if he thinks they can contribute immediately.