CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — During the first his first press conference of the season, Illinois Head Coach Lovie Smith started with a warm welcome: “This is an exciting time. It never gets old.”
An exciting time indeed. Illinois recently unveiled its state of the art practice center and have a shiny new transfer quarterback in Brandon Peters.
In regards to the new football center:
“From the moment [the players] burst inside of the building I saw excitement from the team. This is a good environment to be in.” When asked his favorite part of the facility, Smith went on to joke, “Personally? I would say my office.” Complete with a double-sided fireplace, a private balcony, and quite the view, I can’t say I blame him.
“We want a level playing field. I feel we have a level playing field with [the practice center] we have right now.”
On new starting quarterback Brandon Peters, Smith said, “First off as a coach, I don’t think you have to declare who the starter is, I think most people know it... As far as expectations go, we want him to be poised under pressure.”
“The more comfortable you get in a place, you’re more vocal.” Smith said about Peters’ leadership ability. “Brandon is starting, but the first play of the season. the second guy could be up, a couple plays into the season, the third guy could be up.”
As far as the defense being ranked 128th out of 130 teams last year, Smith said, “That would’ve maybe been tough five or six months ago, but we have a new chance to start and get it right. We can say that not only about our defense but our team as well.”
“We will always try to improve our ball club right up until the last second.”
In other exciting news, long snapper Ethan Tabel was awarded a scholarship.
“This morning at our team meeting one of those special things happened,” Smith said. “We have 85 scholarship players. We’re always trying to build our program up with walk-on players... Ethan Tabel earned a scholarship to the University of Illinois... Really pumped up and excited for him.”
Couldn’t be more proud of @ethan_tabel, this is well earned. We’re lucky to have such a hard working man as part of our football team! #ILLINI pic.twitter.com/0rPiGCEC3t— Lovie Smith (@LovieSmith) August 26, 2019