On February 14, Lovie Smith will begin his second “spring practice” since his arrival as head coach at Illinois last March. Last year, the sessions were hurriedly put together with the coaching staff being hired a short time before the practice began. The players and coaches were strangers to one another. But this year the situation is different. Lovie Smith and eight of his coaches have been through a whole season of football together with most of these players. There is an empty spot on the staff left when Tim McGarigle departed the team for a job with the Green Bay Packers (he’ll be replaced by Donnie Abraham), and there are four players from the 2017 recruiting class participating in spring ball. But the point is, that the players and coaches now have had a whole year to get know the offensive and defensive systems and get to know one another. That knowledge and experience will allow Smith and his staff to build a better football team at Illinois. A more stable and cohesive team will result. And don’t forget, that this fall will be the first time that the Illinois seniors will begin the season the same head coach two years in a row. Lovie Smith now knows his players, and the players know what expect from him, so the end should be a better Illinois football team in 2017.
Lovie Smith is beginning his second week of games as head coach for University of Illinois football. His first win came over Murray State, a score of 52-3. But this week Smith’s focus is on North Carolina and his own team. The new coach talks about his team improving each week as the season progresses. Smith has a cool confidence that I have never seen in an Illini football coach. He believes in his team, and wants them to play to the best of their ability. I see a leader here. A man who knows where he wants his team to go, and will do everything he can to get them there. It will be interesting to see how far he can take them.
Illinois had a big victory today.
Illinois punter Justin Duvernois has been named Big Ten special teams player of the week for his performance against Washington at Soldier Field. Duvernois had five punts for a 45.2 yard average. Three times his punts gave the Huskies a starting field position inside the twenty yard line; once inside the ten yard line. He had three punts of over 50 yards. Including a career high 57 yarder. Duvernois is the second Illini player this season to be named a Big Ten player of the week. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhause was named the Big Ten offensive player of the week September 2.
Illinois was a huge underdog going in their game with Cincinnati, but they won 45-28. Go Illini!
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was named today Offensive Player of the Week in the Big Ten for his performance in Illinois’ 42-34 win over Southern Illinois last Saturday. Scheelhaase passed for 416 yards and two touchdowns in the game. The 416 yards is tenth best for an Illinois quarterback in a single game. He passed for 340 yards in the first half. The most yardage passing ever for an Illini quarterback in the first half. This is the first time an Illinois player was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the week since AJ Jenkins was named October 3, 2011.
A lot of people are predicting the Illinois football will win only two games this year. I disagree with that assessment. This team won two straight games for the first time in history in 2010 and 2011. The only quarterback to win two bowl games in school history is senior starter Nathan Scheelhause. Tim Beckman has revamped his offense by hiring Bill Cubit as the offensive coordinator. Unlike last year, the players are buying into what the coaching staff is trying to teach them. I don’t think Illinois will be a top 25 team. But I think 6 and 6, 7 and 5 is reasonable.