Illini get set against Eastern

Illinois+senior+running+back+E.B.+Halsey+rushes+against+the+defense+of+line+backer+Brit+Miller+during+practice+on+Tuesday+in+Memorial+Stadium.+Adam+Babcock%0A

Illinois senior running back E.B. Halsey rushes against the defense of line backer Brit Miller during practice on Tuesday in Memorial Stadium. Adam Babcock

By Courtney Linehan

The Illini football squad scrimmaged for nearly two hours Tuesday in the third intrasquad combat of the preseason. It was the final practice before the team begins preparing for Eastern Illinois.

While individual players – particularly freshmen like tight end Jeff Cumberland and quarterback Isiah “Juice Williams – showed they’ve continued to improve since the close of camp, many members of the team considered the session a mediocre performance.

“The defense came out and really stepped up, but they didn’t do anything to really stop us,” senior quarterback Tim Brasic said. “We had some mental mistakes. Everything, overall, everybody played at the same level. There was no one really picking it up.”

Junior offensive lineman Akim Millington said, though, that the team is within reach of putting it all together. He stressed that mistakes now will help prepare for the coming season.

“That’s the thing about football, it’s a game where you have to build on your mistakes,” Millington said. “Obviously there were a lot of mistakes today, and there was also a lot of good plays and a lot of good opportunities that were missed on the field.”

But after nearly three weeks of drill work and preseason training, players said they appreciated the opportunity to test their improvements in a game-like situation.

“I would definitely say that when we’re scrimmaging, practice seems to go by faster than when we’re doing drills and all that,” junior defensive lineman Chris Norwell said. “Scrimmaging is what we do; we come out here to tackle, not to thud up and play tag like we usually do in practice.”

Beginning with today’s practice session, the Illini will turn their focus towards preparing for the season opener against Eastern Illinois on Sept. 2. While the team will break out orange jerseys for a scout team and introduce pieces of the plan to prepare for the Panthers, head coach Ron Zook said the majority of the preparation will take place next week.

“When I say game planning, we’ll begin to talk about the things that we do best,” Zook said. “What are the things that Timmy (Brasic) does best, what are the things that Juice does best? Eddie (McGee), Jeff Cumberland, those kinds of things. We’ll work on a little bit of Eastern Illinois here, but just enough to begin to familiarize ourselves with them.”

SCHOLARLY ADVICE

Senior quarterback Tim Brasic said he offered advice to his teammates who are starting their first round of college classes today. He said he remembers the challenge of adjusting to balancing football and school work, and that he told fellow players it is important to stay on top of both.

“In the dorms it’s tough to get rest. I remember people were always out there partying, but playing football, we’ve almost got two jobs. So I told them to go to bed and go to class, because coach doesn’t play games.”

Zook said that while the start of classes means the onset of the regular season and a steady schedule, it will still challenge players who have had nearly a month to focus on football alone.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Once we get the scout team going and they start putting in their blitzes and their base packages, you get that feeling inside, that awesome feeling that you only get so many times. That’s one thing that I’m going to remember most about football. We work so hard in the offseason, do so many lifts and runs, for 12 opportunities. All we get is 12 Saturdays for a couple hours for all those lifts we do, so we have to take advantage of them and I’m definitely going to take advantage of mine this year.”

– Tim Brasic