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Lovie Smith supports Tony Dungy, Orlando Pace at NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony

The Illinois assistant coaches were left in charge of practice on Saturday

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Fighting Illini football practiced in shoulder pads for the first time on Saturday, but there was one huge absence from the sideline. Lovie Smith left campus prior to the third training camp session in order to travel to Canton, OH, where he supported Tony Dungy and Orlando Pace at the 2016 NFL Hall of Fame ceremony.

Smith was accompanied by athletic director Josh Whitman, and they apparently had time to met up with Aaron Moorehead and Leslie Frazier prior to the speeches.

Smith coached Pace with the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears; he also instructed him in college during a brief stint one-year stint at Ohio State. Dungy, on the other hand, is one of Smith’s good friends, and they’ve both made huge impacts on each other’s career. The duo most notably faced off in Super Bowl XLI, with Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts defeating Smith’s Chicago Bears for the title.

The Fighting Illini assistant coaches were left in charge of the team. There were no reports of anything going catastrophically wrong, so they did a great job as far as I’m concerned. Smith had no intention of taking the entire day off, though, as he informed WAND of plans to watch film during his trip back to Champaign.

"Once practice is over, on the way back I assume it will already be downloaded on my IPad. It will be just like I'm there as far as I'm concerned...we have a great coaching staff. They won't miss me at all."

That’s dedication! Illinois’ next training camp practice will take place on Sunday afternoon at 2:30pm CT. As usual, it’ll be open to the public, free of charge.

Illinois Fighting Illini Links

- Illinois planning nine-figure renovation to Memorial Stadium (TCR)

Illini Inquirer’s Jeremy Werner reported on Friday that recruits are being told a new, nine-figure football facility is expected to be in place by 2019. This project has long been speculated to include major modifications to the 'horseshoe' section in the south end zone.

- Illini now in conversation for star WR Jeff Thomas after campus visit (TCR)

Lovie Smith and the Fighting Illini received a visit from one of the nation’s top players on Saturday. Jeff Thomas, an East St. Louis native, is the No. 52 overall player in 247Sports’ class-of-2017 composite rankings.

Redshirt-freshman Jamal Milan has been a training camp standout (Illini Inquirer)

For the second straight fall training camp, Milan looks like a future stalwart of an Illini defensive line that has major questions after this season. But that same Illini defensive line -- which features five seniors with power-five starting experience -- looks loaded with talent for 2016. Milan only elevates the group.