Monday, September 27, 2010

On the O-Line

The Illini offensive line is solid. Literally. The starters range from 305 to 315 pounds, and they stand 6'5" to 6'7". And the backups are similar in size. These big boys are the key to allowing Nathan Scheelhaase and Mikel Leshoure shine. Thus far, the Illini have gotten an average 229 rushing yards per game, and 130 passing yards. But they've also racked up their share of false start penalties, and they've allowed Scheelhaase to be sacked 5 times. They have room for improvement, but they have potential to help the Illini win a few more games.

Jeff Allen is a junior from Chicago. He leads this unit in starts, and has been a key to the Illini rushing success over the last two seasons. He was named to the Sporting News second-team Freshman All-America in 2008.

Hugh Thornton, a sophomore who lived in Idaho before playing his high school senior season in Oberlin, Ohio, is at guard. Despite the strained neck he suffered against Northern Illinois, he was expected to return to start against Ohio State. However, after being arrested on Sunday for his part in a bar fight, his status on the team is questionable. He's had discipline issues before, and to date Zook hasn't announced is decision on how this incident will be handled. Link
Named one of the most improved offensive players during spring ball, redshirt sophomore Graham Pocic, is the new Illini center. Pocic is from Lemont, Ill., and he saw action in most games last season. Although center is a new spot for him at this level, Coach Zook expressed confidence in him. And so far this season, the snaps haven't been quite as sloppy as some other FBS teams...

Randall Hunt, a 5th-year senior from Hightstown, N.J., starts at guard. He also spent a season at Valley Forge Military Academy before enrolling in at the University of Illinois. Hunt has steadily gained experience during his time in Champaign, and he started in 11 games last season.

Another 5th-year senior, Ryan Palmer starts at tackle. He played in 11 games as a redshirt freshman, but a broken foot in 2008 kept him out for the heart of that season. From Canton, Ohio, Palmer says he is coming off his best off-season this year.

The OL has worked to build chemistry as a unit, but they are a bit non-traditional, since Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino lists strong-side and weak-side linemen in his depth chart instead of left guard, right tackle, etc. His line flips to either side of the field as needed for a play.

Let's hope they can continue to open holes to allow the Illini running game to keep moving during the Big Ten season.

Go Illini!

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