Football dons full pads for first time since fall

 

 

By Courtney Linehan

Illinois football put on pads this weekend for its third round of spring practice. The Illini dedicated two and a half hours of Saturday afternoon to the workout, giving the players their first taste of full contact in almost four and a half months.

“They haven’t had pads on for a few months so it’s a little bit different, but for the most part it was pretty smooth and we made progress,” head coach Ron Zook said after practice. “I thought the intensity was good, they got after each other, and I think it’s going to be a very competitive spring.”

Junior center Ryan McDonald said the pads can be a mixed blessing, as the added weight makes players work harder, but also helps ease the pain when linemen go head-to-head. A major point in Saturday’s practice was the Oklahoma drill, which simulates an offensive lineman trying to block a defensive lineman and allow a running back to get through.

“Basically it’s just you versus the defensive lineman,” McDonald said. “It’s intensity and desire, and that’s what the coaches are looking for, see who’s going to bring it.”

BENN GETTING BETTER

Early arrival Rejus Benn is making progress despite being thrown into practice a semester early, fellow receiver Chris James said Saturday.

“Rejus is doing real well, he’s coming along,” James said. “He’s learning the plays, catching on a little easier than I did. He’s a real smart kid, real athletic, really gifted.”

Benn was very active in Saturday’s practice, especially with receiver Kyle Hudson missing the session to compete with the baseball team.

Benn had several impressive completions as the Illini scrimmaged in the last part of practice.

“His comfort level has really increased in the last couple days,” James said. “Since he got here, we’ve been working together, knowing we’ll be playing together. I’ve been trying to help him out a lot, bring him along, since he’ll be a major contributor to the team.”

ON THE SCENE

Several future Illini traveled to Champaign this weekend, including some of the marquee members of the 2007 signing class.

Defensive tackle Josh Brent, receiver Anthony Morris and linebacker Martez Wilson watched practice and talking to future teammates.