UI football recruit Malik Turner and Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin offensive lineman Quinn Oseland were on hand Friday night.
SPRINGFIELD — Wearing a blue-and-white Illinois pullover, Malik Turner took in the scene unfolding in front of him.
His future team, Illinois, was going through practice on the same field where the wide receiver made a name for himself.
The Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin senior will arrive in Champaign-Urbana in June for summer school and workouts, but on Friday night he surveyed the atmosphere surrounding him. With a big smile.
“It’s cool to see all the guys together,” Turner said. “I’ve never really seen them all together practicing. It’s just cool to see what they do on a day-to-day basis, see the atmosphere and watch the wide receivers go to work.”
What he saw out of his future position group included impressive catches by Geronimo Allison, Mikey Dudek, Martize Barr and Justin Hardee. Turner knows he has work to do once he gets to Illinois, but he was glad he had the chance to take in the two-hour workout that the Illini put on in front of an estimated crowd of 1,000.
“It’s kind of weird because my high school team is here,” Turner said, “and I’ve got Illinois here, but it’s still real cool.”
Turner said he plans to attend next Saturday’s spring game at Memorial Stadium. Getting an early glimpse was good enough for him Friday night. Not only did he enjoy having Illinois play on his former field but he said it’s good for future generations, too.
“They get to see them interact with the community and be a part of that,” Turner said. “Kids grow up and see that. They want to be a part of it, too.”
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Maybe Quinn Oseland is one of those kids. Although calling the 6-foot-6, 307-pound offensive lineman a kid is a bit of a stretch.
The Springfield SHG right tackle in the Class of 2015 counts Illinois among one of his many offers. Offers that extend to Big Ten teams (like Minnesota) along with a handful of Pac-12 schools (like Arizona State and Oregon, among others).
Oseland was in attendance Friday night, wearing a black Springfield SHG hoodie with his last name on the back and sporting long, curly blond hair.
“I’m still growing it out,” Oseland said with a grin. “I want it out of the helmet. We’ll see how long it goes.”
College coaches also will have to wait and see how long Oseland’s recruitment goes. He said he was taking a trip to Iowa today and had one planned in early May for Oregon, where he has some family.
“My coach wants me to make my decision by the end of the summer, but I’m still thinking about it,” Oseland said. “I’ll make it when the time is right.”
Oseland said he stays in touch with Jacksonville left tackle Gabe Megginson, another Class of 2015 in-state recruit who is being heavily pursued by Illinois.
“We both kind of talk and see how we’re feeling,” Oseland said. “We don’t really push each other. It’s nice to talk to someone going through the same process as you and getting some advice and giving some advice.”
Oseland has visited Illinois numerous times, so he’s familiar with the campus and the football program.
“I know the staff so well,” Oseland said. “I have a good friend going there in Malik, and I know quite a few kids there. There’s a lot of people that I know, and it’d be a very comfortable place to go.”
Having Turner going to Illinois is another component that looks like it could favor the Illini.
“I talk to him all the time (about Illinois),” Turner said. “He saw the workout book they gave me and everything I have to do. I try to keep in his ear.”
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Watching on the opposite sidelines from where the majority of the crowd was, Ken Leonard looked like a proud papa.
The Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin football coach was pleased with the turnout on a chilly and windy evening.
“All the compliments we’re getting on our facility is just super. The only thing I regret is the weather. I talked to Coach (Tim) Beckman and said, ‘Hey, this is the best place you can be because we’re kind of set down. The winds not quite as bad.’ It’s unbelievable.”
Leonard kept it direct when asked what he was looking forward to watching Friday night: Rochester products Wes Lunt and Zach Grant.
“I know what he can do,” Leonard said of Lunt. “He’s real special. He’s a great player, so those two guys being local and Malik coming there next year, exciting things are happening over there.”
Rain hit Springfield hard Thursday, and Leonard said the field was actually under water roughly 24 hours before Illinois showed up.
“That’s the great thing about having turf here and the setup we have,” Leonard said. “This thing drains instantly.”
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Standing on the berm behind one of the end zones, Rochester coach Derek Leonard — the son of Ken Leonard — and between 30 and 35 current Rochester players took in Friday night’s scrimmage.
“And that’s with baseball and track going on,” Derek Leonard said. “I think we’d have even more if those weren’t going on. It’s cool that these guys want to support Wes and Zach. Our kids love it and look up to them.”
The younger Leonard was eager to see what the Illinois offense looked like with his former quarterback donning his customary red practice jersey.
“Man, it’s football in the spring,” Derek Leonard said. “And they pass a lot, so it’s all up my alley. I’m just excited to see how much they’ve improved. Now having kids that are in it, you have a little bit more invested.”
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Well before the Illinois football team arrived shortly before 6 p.m., Tim Knox and other personnel were setting up the field.
Knox, the Illini director of football operations, said about 35 staff members were helping post banners around the field, setting up video equipment and other materials. The group started about 4 p.m.
“It was everybody that we normally have,” Knox said. “It’s not like it’s magically set up beforehand.”
Knox and equipment manager Trent Chesnut made the trip to SHG a few weeks ago to scout the premises and make sure accommodations were taken care of ahead of time. It’s standard procedure for Knox.
“Trent hadn’t been here, and I hadn’t been here before,” Knox said. “It’s just like what we do with travel. I’ve never been to Washington? Guess what I’m going to do in May? Going to Washington because I don’t want the first time to be in September before the game.”
Knox credited Springfield SHG assistant football coach Chad Anderson for help in the process.
“The whole locker room situation took us 45 minutes to figure out because they had a lot of space,” Knox said. “There was a cafeteria we could have used. It was just a matter of figuring out what was the best and the easiest.”
Knox gave the SHG facility a ringing endorsement.
“I was told how nice it was, and I had seen games here on tape, but when we walked in, that alone, with the setup, you don’t see a lot of that anywhere,” Knox said. “This is beautiful.”