A new era of Illinois Football opened Monday night under the lights at Memorial Stadium. Bret Bielema returned an April tradition with the Spring Game, where Orange beat Blue, 65-15.
Here are the biggest takeaways!
1. Brandon Peters!! Good!
In case you forgot, BP is back — again. And while the job is possibly open for Isaiah Williams to take, Peters made an argument Monday that he is QB1. He had a number of great throws early in the game, including a dime to Donny Navarro.
2. Ok, but depth???
The Orange Team (in the first half at least) was the first-teamers. The Blue Team was everyone else, and Orange was.... much better. While that can be expected for a spring game, it was kind of concerning for what kind of depth this team will work with this season, barring injuries or COVID issues.
IW was given the ability to throw by Tony Petersen, but Blue couldn’t do ANYTHING. Again, just a spring game, but, a little concerning?
3. Wideout Options
This is a good sign for this offense after Josh Imatorrbhebhe declared for the NFL Draft. Whether it’s a resurgence for Donny Navarro, Brian Hightower jumping on the scene, former Mizzou Tiger Khmari Thompson (who had a brilliant TD catch), or one of the tight ends (we’re looking at you, Luke Ford), this team has options.
4. The defense played, too!
Again, spring games should be fun for us, so we’re not going to judge too much here, especially with the rules they played this game under. And this defense is returning a bunch from last season, but not sure we learned much about any guy in this game. (But Isaiah Gay had a nice sack!)
(Note: NC State transfer CJ Hart was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct. So that happened after a tackle near the line of scrimmage.)
5. It looked like a football game!
Say what you want about the 2020 season, but it was a lost year. When they were ruling players ineligible for the Purdue game the morning of the game, I knew the whole season was an exhibition, and that was a shame because that team could’ve been good under the right circumstances.
But this season.... should look mostly like a season. And that started with Monday.
You could hear and see Marching Illini in the stands. The cheerleaders were there, as were thousands of Illini fans.
(There was also an in-between kicking competition that happened and it was kind of fun.)
And Bielema is inspiring me that brighter days are ahead. Lovie’s family was coaching on the sidelines with him. Bret’s family is in the box cheering on dad getting another chance to build a program.
Lovie did a spring game in 2019, but it wasn’t the same. But this was fun, gave the Illini a night in the national spotlight on BTN, and gave us something to be excited about amid all of this (*gestures everywhere*).