Big Ten play will not change Illinois’ preparation


Austin Yattoni

Illinois football defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson talks to defensive back Dillan Cazley (8) during practice at Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, August 31, 2016.

By Mike Gasick, Staff writer

The University of South Florida exposed a lot of faults in its win over Illinois last weekend, but the Illini are not wavering as they get ready to begin Big Ten play against Nebraska next week.

The Illini gave credit to the Bulls’ offense, admitting they were overmatched at some points during last Friday night’s game.

But according to Lovie Smith, the team that took the field against the Bulls was not the Illinois football team that fans should get used to seeing out there, and as such, the Illini are looking to forget much of the South Florida game.

Nebraska will meet Illinois on Sept. 29 in a Friday primetime matchup. The game will be Nebraska’s second Big Ten matchup after playing Rutgers this weekend.

The Illini said they will not approach Big Ten play any differently from their first three games of the season.

The only dual-threat quarterback Illinois will face from here on out — barring injuries — is Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett. This bodes well for an Illini defense who spent the whole game against Western Kentucky pressuring pocket-passer Mike White. When the Illini defense went up against Quinton Flowers of South Florida, they did not fair nearly as well.

The senior Barrett has already compiled 916 all-purpose yards and seven total touchdowns. Illinois will see Barrett and the Buckeyes in Columbus on Nov. 18.

The other starting quarterbacks in the Big Ten are primarily pocket passers. The Cornhuskers’ Tanner Lee is more of a one-dimensional quarterback who rarely uses his legs to gain yardage.

Defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson said he does not care who is under center on the opposing team; he just wants his defense to contain the quarterback as best as it can.

“Whoever it is, we just have to make sure that we are playing the way we want to play ball,” Nickerson said. “That is containing the quarterback, keeping him in the pocket and making our plays when they come to us.”

Sophomore Tymir Oliver admitted that the defense has to be better than what it showed against South Florida.

He said he believes the team matches up better with pocket passers, but understands that the defense has to be ready for both dual-threat and pocket-passing quarterbacks.

“I mean any quarterback we have to get, no excuses,” Oliver said. “Mobile or not, we have to get to him no matter what.”

The Illinois offense is also approaching Big Ten play with the same routine as it did with its previous three games.

Wide receiver Mike Dudek said practices and game preparation will be no different leading into the Nebraska matchup.

“It’s the same thing each week for us,” Dudek said. “You have Big Ten, a little tougher opponents, so we’re going to have to have that mindset to come out here and attack practice and not take any days off.”

Wideout Malik Turner echoed many of Dudek’s sentiments about Big Ten play.

The senior said that the bye week will be beneficial for the team to regroup after its loss to South Florida.

“We have more time to watch film, more time to prep for (Nebraska),” Turner said. “It’s big for us with the Big Ten opener at Memorial Stadium, so we’re just getting ready like we have been, and the more time works in our favor.”

The offensive unit will have its first look against a Nebraska defense that has surrendered 425 yards per game as well as 95 total points through its first three games.


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