Friday, April 13, 2012
Spring game preview: Illinois
By Adam Rittenberg
Seven Big Ten teams hold their spring games Saturday, and we're taking a closer look at each one of them.
Next up: The annual Orange and Blue Spring Game at Illinois. Here are all the vitals:
When: 3 p.m. ET (2 p.m. local time), Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium
Admission: Free. All seating will be in the east stands. Free parking is available in the lots surrounding the stadium and Assembly Hall.
TV: The game will be streamed live on both BTN2Go and the Big Ten Digital Network. The Big Ten Network will broadcast the game on tape-delay at 7 p.m. ET Sunday.
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy with scattered thunderstorms possible, temperatures between 66-76 degrees, 50 percent chance of rain, winds at 19-20 mph.
What to watch for: Illinois should have one of the more entertaining spring games in the Big Ten. New head coach Tim Beckman said players will approach it "as if it's a real game." The team's seniors were divided into two groups and drafted teams earlier this week. The game will be played with a normal clock in the first half and a running clock in the second half (except if the game is close in the final two minutes). Another unique tidbit: Beckman will go into the stands and select Illinois students to call two plays per half for both teams.
Beckman wants to put on a show for the fans, who should get a decent sense of the new systems Illinois is using on both sides of the ball. The Illini are employing an up-tempo spread attack on offense, and it will be interesting to see how quarterbacks Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O'Toole are adjusting. There are depth issues at both wide receiver and running back, and Illinois is bolstering the spots with players such as Miles Osei, a reserve quarterback who could see time at both receiver and running back Saturday, and starting cornerback Terry Hawthorne, who will see time at receiver. Another defensive back, Justin Green, is being used as a running back. Top wideout Darius Millines (foot) is out, so plenty of others will have opportunities to make plays.
The changes aren't as dramatic on defense, as coordinator Tim Banks uses a similar scheme to his predecessor, Vic Koenning. Illinois looks very strong in the defensive front seven, and coaches have praised players such as Michael Buchanan, Jonathan Brown and Justin Staples. Safeties Supo Sanni and Steve Hull, both projected starters, are out for the game.