Friday, April 11, 2014
Spring game preview: Illinois
By Adam Rittenberg
Ten league squads wrap up spring practice this weekend, and we’re taking a look at each spring game or scrimmage. Up next: the Illinois Fighting Illini.
When: 3 p.m. ET Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
Admission: Tickets and parking are free. Only the East side of the stadium is open, and fans should enter through Gates 17, 19 and 21.
TV: Streamed on BTN2Go.com
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy, temperatures in the 60s, winds at 10-15 mph
What to watch for: The Orange and Blue game will be played with a normal clock for the first three quarters and a running clock for the fourth, aside from the final two minutes if the game is close. Every drive following a score will begin at the offense's 27-yard line. Punts will be fair-caught, and field goals will be attempted without a rush. The seniors selected the rosters earlier this week, as quarterback Wes Lunt was the first pick (Blue), followed by running back Josh Ferguson (Orange). Seven players are listed on both rosters and could play for both squads.
Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit is in no rush to name a starting quarterback, but Lunt has looked the part this spring, especially in last week's scrimmage. Coach Tim Beckman described the spring game as another opportunity to compete, although Lunt and Reilly O'Toole both will play for the Blue squad, while dual-threat sophomore Aaron Bailey suits up for the Orange. Newcomer receivers Geronimo Allison and Mike Dudek, both of whom have stood out this spring, will play for the Orange team. Top running backs Ferguson and Donovonn Young also will play for Orange.
On defense, keep an eye on linebacker T.J. Neal, whom Beckman singled out for his play this spring. He brings versatility to the group. Defensive coordinator Tim Banks called Neal "the surprise of the spring." Leo DeJazz Woods and end Kenny Nelson are worth watching after making plays in earlier spring scrimmages.
The quarterback position always generates attention, but Illinois' biggest problems in 2013 were on the defensive side of the ball. The unit is better, coaches say, and fans can get a glimpse of the differences Saturday.