Bob's Blitz: Day 2 from Camp Rantoul

Bob's Blitz: Day 2 from Camp Rantoul

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IN THE NEWS

SPEEDING UP

His left ankle has healed. Now, JUSTIN GREEN wants to run like he used to.

It's coming, the sophomore tailback said. He suffered the broken ankle early in spring drills.

"I'm a tad bit rusty," Green said. "I feel fine. My ankle doesn't bother me. Right now, it's just about getting some reps and getting my feet back under me."

He missed the bulk of spring practices, so a bit of rust is expected.

"I'm caught up on all of the offensive plays," Green said. "Hopefully that will lead to good things."

Eventually, Green hopes to be as fast or faster than before. Another month or two, he said, and he'll be at top speed.

"It's going to take reps and just grinding," Green said.

GOOD CALL

The change in practice time Tuesday worked well for RON ZOOK's team. Instead of a 3:30 p.m. workout in sweltering heat, the Illini practiced at 10 a.m.

As the players made their way onto the field, a steady rain turned into a drizzle. About halfway through the session, the sun came out and temperatures rose. But not to the extremes of Tuesday afternoon. The heat index was 113 degrees at 3:45 p.m.

"It worked exactly like we thought it would," Zook said. "We still got the heat. The last hour of practice was pretty hot. It was good. You can push them harder."

Tuesday's workout was the first time the Illini could have full contact.

"These guys haven't hit since the spring game," Zook said. "I think it's important that they get into the hitting part gradually."

SAVE THE DATE

Fan Appreciation Day is Aug. 28 from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Before the annual autograph session, fans will be allowed to watch the team's final dress rehearsal, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

From there, fans will be asked to go to the Great West Hall for autographs and pictures. Posters will be available, but fans also can bring their own items to be signed.

Players will be grouped by position during the autograph session.

SPECIAL GUESTS

Illinois athletic director RON GUENTHER made his first appearance at Camp Rantoul on Tuesday. In the 12 years of the camp, Guenther has been a frequent visitor.

Illinois associate athletic director TOM MICHAEL, who is in charge of academics, brought Zook good news.

"Everybody is qualified. Everybody is through the clearinghouse," Zook said. "We knew everybody was all right."

More guests are on the way Monday. The Big Ten Network crew of DAVE REVSINE, former Illini HOWARD GRIFFITH and former Indiana coach GERRY DiNARDO will spend the afternoon and evening watching Illinois practice. The Big Ten Network has a show dedicated to Illinois football scheduled for Monday night.

SCHEDULE STUFF

The team has its first double session of Camp Rantoul today, with workouts at 8:05 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. On Thursday, the team has a single practice at 3:30 p.m.

POSITION WATCH: Defensive end/Bandit

One has the traditional name. One has the fancy name. But they are both doing some version of the same thing: chasing the quarterback, stopping the run, creating havoc with opposing offenses.

Senior CLAY NURSE is back full-go after missing contact drills in the spring. Nurse, who had 5.5 sacks in 2009, is receiving preseason All-Big Ten consideration from several national magazines.

In Chicago during the Big Ten media event, Nurse talked openly about the lack of respect being shown to his defense and his team. The coaches want to see Nurse's play match his feelings about the team.

MICHAEL BUCHANAN is the starting Bandit, ahead of NATE PALMER. Both figure to be a part of the rotation as KEITH GILMORE tries to keep fresh players on the field.

Sophomore WHITNEY MERCILUS is backing up Nurse. So is JUSTIN STAPLES, who came to Illinois as a linebacker.

COACHING CORNER:

OFFENSIVE LINE COACH JOE GILBERT

There are some established positions. GRAHAM POCIC appears set at center. JEFF ALLEN is going to start at tackle. RANDALL HUNT will be one of the starting guards.

But second-year line coach JOE GILBERT doesn't want his guys to get complacent. He has created competition across the line. Nobody will be able to cruise.

"We're a long ways away from where we need to be," Gilbert said after Tuesday's session. "The guys that we're trying to get into the rotation that we feel are going to be ready to play when the time comes against Missouri, those guys are the ones we're spending time with and are getting reps.

"When there's competition, everybody gets better. That's something we're trying to stress."

HUGH THORNTON will be in the starting lineup somewhere. The question is which position. He finished 2009 as a starting tackle but was going to move inside to guard. When COREY LEWIS suffered a knee injury in the spring game, Thornton again became an option for tackle. He is taking snaps at both positions.

If it works the way the coaches hope, Gilbert will be able to keep Thornton at guard and use either RYAN PALMER or CRAIG WILSON at the tackle spot opposite Allen.

"They're battling it out," Gilbert said.

Lewis is with the linemen during practice. He will redshirt this season and have two years of eligibility left.

"He was a young kid when he came in and played," Gilbert said. "This is going to give him that year to mature that he missed at the start of his career. In hindsight, it might be the best thing that ever happened to him."

The guards and tackles no longer are listed as "left" or "right." Instead, they are strongside or weakside. The guards and tackles will be able to flip depending on the call.

"We're able to get matchups," Gilbert said. "If we say, 'Hey, the one team has got a great defensive end' and we feel one tackle is better than the other, formationally there's a way that we can get him against the right person."

Gilbert said the flipping won't tip which direction the play is going.

"Bottom line, we're going to do what's best for us," Gilbert said.

The concept came from Arkansas, where offensive coordinator PAUL PETRINO worked before joining RON ZOOK's staff.

SURVEY SAYS ...

Each day during Camp Rantoul, we will run survey answers from the Illinois football players. Today's guests:

RECEIVER JARRED FAYSON

Two years in, thumbs up or thumbs down to President Obama? Thumbs up

Complete this sentence, LeBron James is ... a great talent.

Better hair: Ron Zook or Rod Blagojevich? Zook

Twitter or Facebook? Neither

Who is the most famous person in your cell phone? Bershawn Jackson, Andre Caldwell

What school should the Big Ten get next? Missouri

What's your all-time favorite kids movie? "3 Ninjas"

Have the Blackhawks made you a hockey fan? No

Who is your smartest teammate? Jack Cornell

Which of your teammates has a future in Hollywood? Trulon Henry

Favorite former Illini currently in the NFL? Greg Lewis

Best road trip in the Big Ten? Penn State

Other than your girlfriend/wife, who will be cool if you answer this, who is your dream date? Sanaa Lathan

Who is the last guy on the team you can picture getting married? Tavon Wilson

Should they take Reggie Bush's Heisman away? No

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN JEFF ALLEN

Two years in, thumbs up or thumbs down to President Obama? Thumbs up

Complete this sentence, LeBron James is ... getting a ring this year.

Twitter or Facebook? Facebook

Who is the most famous person in your cell phone? Rejus Benn

What school should the Big Ten get next? Texas

What's your all-time favorite kids movie? "Toy Story"

Name the one thing new President Michael Hogan needs to add to campus. A White Castle

Have the Blackhawks made you a hockey fan? Yes

Who is your smartest teammate? Zach Becker

Which of your teammates has a future in Hollywood? Antonio Gully

Favorite former Illini currently in the NFL? Dave Diehl

Best road trip in the Big Ten? Penn State

Other than your girlfriend/wife, who will be cool if you answer this, who is your dream date? Alicia Keys

Who is the last guy on the team you can picture getting married? Greg Fuller

Should they take Reggie Bush's Heisman away? No

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

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