Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fun in the Sun

Illini cornerback Vontae Davis is headed to Miami to start his NFL career. Congratulations to Vontae, the #25 pick in the 2009 draft! It's always nice to see a deserving Illini go in the first round. Vontae was rated among the top CBs in this class, and was the second one taken. According to ESPN scouts, he's the best "pure cover corner" in the class.

In addition, offensive tackle Xavier Fulton was selected by Tampa Bay in the 5th round, and defensive lineman Will Davis was taken by Arizona in the 6th round. Four other Illini signed free agent contracts.

All the best to Vontae, Xavier and Will as they head to sunny places this summer...

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spring Scrimmage

Ron Zook continued his tradition of holding a spring practice scrimmage in the Chicagoland area this weekend. My schedule only allowed me to catch about the last hour of the team on the field, but it was enough to get me excited about Illini football.

The offense looks great -- not surprising, as that is a general consensus this spring. The receivers are promising and the high expectations for this group are justified. But I also saw a few pretty cuts in the running game that picked up extra yards, and Juice and Eddie McGee both had a few nice runs.

However, the defense has plenty of work to do before the 2009 season begins. The tendancy to miss tackles or allow guys to bounce off tackles continued. There were a few plays where they did a nice job pressuring the QB, but much of the time the ball moved forward easily. Concerns about the defense also seemed to be a general consensus, at least from the fans sitting near me. I heard a couple comments, and when I voiced my own concerns, even Martez Wilson's uncle agreed that these guys have work to do over the next few months.

Co-defensive coordinators Dan Disch and Curt Mallory need to see a leader emerge, and they need to reinforce the fundamentals to get their boys ready. Fortunately, they've got time.

That said, the athletic ability appears to be there on both sides of the ball. The Illini should continue to be recognized for their "explosive" offense, and with continuous improvement on the other side of the ball, the 2009 football season will be a lot of fun.

Go Illini!



Saturday, April 04, 2009

Spring and Championships

Finally, spring is in the air, and here in the Chicagoland area, snow is in the forecast just one more time (we hope). The Illini football team is practicing, the baseball and softball teams are on the field, the tennis teams are on the court (with the men ranked #12) and Illini fans could check out one guy on his way to campus on ESPNU.

Congratulations to the Big Ten Champion men's gymnastics team! The #4 Illini contended the entire night, but it took a team-high score on the pommel horse in the fifth rotation to put the Illini firmly in second place, 2.35 points behind the hosts and leaders, the Michigan Wolverines.

Then, in the 6th and final rotation, the Illini came through with their season-high score on the still rings to take the lead. A scoring error ended up giving the Wolverines a share of the title, as well, but the Illini stole the show by catching up on one of their weaker events. Definitely a championship worth watching!


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