It doesn’t exactly take a genius to realize that Lovie Smith brought a renewed sense of credibility to Illinois Football. The Orange and Blue were sorely lacking in this area prior to his arrival, and this was perhaps best reflected in their year-to-year recruiting rankings. With the exception of their high-water mark in 2014 (No. 7 in the Big Ten), Illinois had been finishing at or near the bottom of the conference in this category since 2009.
If Smith’s recent comments are to be taken at face value, though, those struggles have finally reached the rear-view mirror. During an interview with CSN Chicago’s Vinnie Duber, the new Fighting Illini coach discussed his program’s recruiting pitch and expectations while making it quite clear that high school players have been listening to what he has to say.
"We have a great university to recruit to. Your education is second to none, degree means quite a lot. And the football part, of course, is coming, but all we’ve asked people to do is give us a chance, look at how we’re going to do things. We’ve gotten that, the response has been how you want it to be.
~ Lovie Smith
Illinois has been struggling in terms of commitment numbers this offseason, but it’s hard to deny the situation hasn’t at least improved. Prospects that wouldn’t have even considered Illinois under past regimes (i.e. four-star WR Jeff Thomas) are now paying serious attention to the program, and it may be only a matter of time until results start materializing. Hopefully the Illini are able to put together a 6-win season this Fall -- that would really get things moving in a positive direction.
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The sophomore guard is set to participate in Global Sport Academy’s Select Tour from August 9-17; the five-game European event will take place in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.
While N.C. State had their fair share of struggles last year, this should be great non-conference test for Illinois. The Wolfpack signed two five-star recruits to replenish a roster that finished thirteenth in the conference.
"It was a physical practice," Illinois redshirt freshman linebacker Justice Williams said. "Most of the time we play, it's pretty physical. So, I mean, how we look at it as pants on, you just have your uppers on, either way it's full contact. Got to get good physical play to play defense."
Depth is my biggest concern going into the season. Injuries will happen, and when they do, does everything fall apart because we’re going from an A- starter to a D+ backup?
[OL coach Luke] Butkus is taking a very nice approach to teaching the new scheme. He is slowing everything down and doing a LOT of teaching through mistakes. He is making sure in pass protection the footwork is correct and the heads are back. On the run side, he is stopping many plays to walk through what the OL was thinking and cleaning up the footwork.