Offense solid in final spring scrimmage

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Daniel Johnson

In its final scrimmage of the spring season, Illinois’ offense finally found some footing, outscoring the defense 38-31.

After “losing” the first two practice games, the offensive side of the ball was led by the passing game. Juice Williams’ performance, while lacking touchdowns, was mistake-free.


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Offense outscores defense

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“We did some pretty good things as far as moving the ball up and down the field,” Williams said. “Obviously there are some things that we need to clean up. But that’s why we have practice; that’s why we go to Camp (Rantoul). We’ve got plenty of time to clean it up.”

Both sides of the ball are still missing some of their potential starters, to which offensive coordinator Mike Locksley attributed some of the inconsistent spring play.

“What we wanted to accomplish was hard, not having all of the pieces in place, (but) we were able to get a lot of valuable experience for some young guys,” Locksley said. “Going up against the (defensive) front that we see every day can’t do anything but help us.”

The defensive front is what co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch called “the strength of the team.” The defensive front strongly contributed to pressuring the quarterbacks again this week, collaborating for 10 sacks on the day – including three by Jerry Brown and 2.5 by Will Davis.

“You hope that we can carry this out onto the field when we’re playing someone other than ourselves,” Disch said of the team’s noteworthy defensive play. “They’re the strength of the team, not only in talent level but numbers. If we’re going to be good, they have to be great.”

On the offensive side of the ball, two of the players getting more playing time are Chris Duvalt and Jarred Fayson. Although Fayson will not be eligible to play in the upcoming season, he showed his ability on the opening kickoff of the second half, returning Mike Cklamovski’s kick for a 93-yard touchdown.

“This past week in practice, Coach put a big emphasis on taking care of the little things,” Fayson said. “(On the kickoff return) when I got the ball, I chose my lane, was hitting on the gas, and I just had to make a play. It just happened.”

Fayson’s position mate, Duvalt, a converted defensive back, has shown all throughout spring his ability to play the position he defended last year. Duvalt tied with three other receivers for most receptions in the game, with his four receptions going for 52 yards. His diving catch was one of the more outstanding offensive highlights of the spring season.

“The move (to receiver) is going great right now,” Duvalt said. “I’m still learning the position, but other than that, it’s going great. It was tough at first because I had to go to a lot of meetings with the coaches to learn the position, learn the routes. It felt funny at first, the first couple days at practice it was strange lining up against my old defensive back-mates. It’s cool now though.”

But with spring practices now finished, the team will have to wait until Rantoul before more significant progress can be made.

When asked what the team will need to do to have a season similar to last year, senior linebacker Brit Miller cited the players would need more of the same effort that got the Illini to the Rose Bowl.

“We the have athletes here, that’s apparent; the kind of defense that we’ll be running next year is something that suits our talent level well,” he said. “Our offense does a great job. Juice is getting better every day. I think when they get healthy they’re going to be pretty tough. Competing against those guys in camp is going to be fun.”