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BATTLING IT OUT

The tightest competition on the offensive line isn't where you might expect it: the tackle spot opposite JEFF ALLEN.

Fifth-year senior RYAN PALMER has claimed the position as his and seems likely to open the Missouri game.

"Ryan Palmer is so much better from last year," Illinois offensive line coach JOE GILBERT said. "He's more physical. He's playing a lot tougher. He's stronger. He had the best offseason he's ever had here. Ryan is one of those guys who as a fifth-year senior has figured out that this is his last deal. He's been playing like that."

Fifth-year senior RANDALL HUNT has secured his starting guard spot. The competition is between HUGH THORNTON, who moved inside this season from tackle, and JACK CORNELL.

"That's still kind of even," Gilbert said.

WHERE'S THE HEAT?

Except for the bugs, which seem to enjoy Camp Rantoul, Illinois couldn't have asked for a better day weather-wise.

Gone were the high-90s temperatures and tropical rain forest-like humidity. Instead, temperatures were in the low 80s with a tiny breeze and reasonable humidity. During the evening session, you almost needed a jacket. Almost.

"Perfect, perfect," coach RON ZOOK said. "Pretty nice weather, really."

SPECIAL GUEST

No sign of new Illinois president MICHAEL HOGAN at Camp Rantoul. Not yet. But Illinois athletic director RON GUENTHER attended the morning session.

"He's a coach," Zook said. "He gives you a different perspective. He gives you a coach's perspective. He tells it how it is. It was great. I didn't get a chance to talk to him after the scrimmage on Saturday."

Zook and Guenther talked about some of the issues for the secondary in Saturday's workout.

"I told him, 'I've coached the secondary for a lot of years at a lot of levels, high school, college and the NFL. I've never had a year where early in the practice, guys didn't get run by. That's just part of it.' "

It happened to cornerback TERRY HAWTHORNE, who is projected to be one of the top players on the Illinois defense.

"Terry needed that because he'd been taking chances," Zook said. "You keep telling him, 'Hey, that's what's going to happen.' Now he knows. Some things are necessary to happen to make you a better football team."

RED OUT

The quarterbacks wore white jerseys. Except for the starter.

During a blitz period, backup quarterbacks CHANDLER WHITMER and MILES OSEI were allowed to be hit by the defense.

"It's good for them, too," Zook said. "When you're standing back there and have a red jersey on, you know no one's going to hit you and hurt you. When you know you're live, it's just a different feeling. I thought they both did excellent. I thought the offense stepped up and protected them and they got rid of the ball quick."

SCHEDULE STUFF

The team has a single session today at 3:30 p.m. The final double session of Camp Rantoul is Wednesday at 8:05 a.m. and 6:15 p.m.

Position watch: Linebacker

The most important point of Camp Rantoul, at least as far as the linebackers are concerned, came Saturday night during the team's annual scrimmage.

For the first time since last year's opener against Missouri, MARTEZ WILSON competed in game-type conditions. And came off the field healthy.

The junior is returning after surgery on a herniated disc. Fully cleared to play, he has said repeatedly he isn't worried about the injury. On Saturday, he showed it by running around and chasing after quarterbacks and running backs.

Wilson has NFL talent. What he needs to show the pro scouts is that he can consistently make the plays required of a linebacker. That means stopping the run and getting into the backfield when asked.

Some think Wilson is more natural at defensive end. But the NFL sees him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. So, every snap at Illinois pushes him closer to his NFL dream.

Wilson's primary backup in the middle is EVAN FRIERSON, with AARON GRESS also an option. But Gress has been working as an outside linebacker, filling in for IAN THOMAS, who missed a couple of workouts with a sore foot. Thomas was in uniform Monday and is expected to be ready long before the opener against Missouri.

The third linebacker spot is held by NATE BUSSEY, a converted defensive back. Another former defensive back, ASHANTE WILLIAMS, is working as Bussey's backup.

Coaching corner: Quarterback coach Jeff Brohm

Each day, he spends a few minutes after practice running sprints. No offense to the other Illinois coaches, but JEFF BROHM looks closest to being ready to play.

"I'm trying to get in better shape," Brohm said. "I want to be ready in case (BRETT) FAVRE decides not to come back. I might to try to give it a shot."

He's kidding. But he has been in Favre's shoes, playing seven years in the NFL with four different teams.

Brohm's got an NFL-sized challenge on his hands this season. His three scholarship quarterbacks have never taken a college snap. The oldest one is a redshirt freshman. One's been in school a semester and the other will go to his first college class next week.

"This is about as young as it gets," Brohm said. "We've realized that for a while. It's not something that snuck up on us."

Brohm and offensive coordinator PAUL PETRINO have been pushing the quarterbacks in practice and meetings. They've been happy with most of the results.

"They're working extremely hard," Brohm said. "They're putting in the time. They're improving every day. But it's going to be a long process. We're trying to do the best job we can to put them in tough, game-like conditions, to try to put the pressure on them to grow up as fast as they can."

Brohm, a standout at Louisville, played as a reserve quarterback his freshman year.

"It can work," Brohm said. "Obviously, starting as a freshman or even starting as a redshirt freshman, not having played, there's going to be some bumps along the road. We've got to try to make it as smooth as we can throughout the season."

Brohm said starting quarterback NATHAN SCHEELHAASE is "very poised, very composed. We think he's got great leadership skills and he's a great athlete."

The points of emphasis for Scheelhaase include taking care of the ball, accuracy and decision making.

"We're trying to make him the best passer we can," Brohm said. "He knows that's what he needs to continue to work hard at. What has to happen is we have to realize his strengths come game one and put him in a position to win. And he has to realize his strengths in game one and do things he's good at."

Freshmen CHANDLER WHITMER and MILES OSEI are competing for the backup spot. Quarterback-turned-receiver EDDIE McGEE might also be an option.

"We've got to make sure they're ready," Brohm said. "We need them all."

Survey says ...

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

SAFETY SUPO SANNI

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

Complete this sentence, LeBron James is ... richer than me, but not a champion ... great.

Better hair: Ron Zook or Rod Blagojevich? Rod Blagojevich

Twitter or Facebook? Facebook

Who is the most famous person in your cell phone? My sister

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? Free parking for football players

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? Supo Sanni

Favorite former Illini currently in the NFL? Dave Diehl

Best road trip in the Big Ten? Ohio State

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

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

Should they take Reggie Bush's Heisman away? NO!

LINEBACKER EVAN FRIERSON

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

Complete this sentence, LeBron James is ... an amazing athlete.

Better hair: Ron Zook or Rod Blagojevich? Ron Zook

Twitter or Facebook? Twitter

Who is the most famous person in your cell phone? Vontae Davis

What school should the Big Ten get next? Mizzou

What's your all-time favorite kids movie? "The Sandlot"

Name the one thing new president Michael Hogan needs to add to campus? Football players get their own golf carts

Have the Blackhawks made you a hockey fan? No, Washington Capitals. I've got to rep my city

Who is your smartest teammate? Zach Becker

Which of your teammates has a future in Hollywood? Travon Bellamy

Favorite former Illini currently in the NFL? Vontae Davis

Best road trip in the Big Ten? Ohio State

Other than your girlfriend/wife, who will be cool if you answer this, who is your dream date? Two years running: Kyla Pratt

Who is the last guy on the team you can picture getting married? Ian Thomas

Should they take Reggie Bush's Heisman away? No way

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

Comments

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IlliniHimey wrote on August 17, 2010 at 12:08 am

Guenther is a coach, so you say Mr. Zook? Well, with 126 losses under his belt, I would not listen too much to him. His incompetence has been proven each year for what, 18 years now?

JimOATSfan wrote on August 17, 2010 at 6:08 am

My take is that AD Ron Guenther's been outstanding at all aspects of his position's scope of work, except winning football games. So here is an idea to consider.

New President & #1fan Michael Hogan and RG go about determining the 12-24 most successful football programs in the last 25 years. Then identify the AD's in charge during those timeframes. This group of people are an excellent source of talent to consult about the Illini program. Some of these folks will no longer be with us, but the rest might be happy to discuss what 3 steps they would take | recommend to improve the win percentage at Illinois. What is the best historical win percentage in the nation? I am guessing about 75%. A step up to the 50-60% win rate over the next 10 years should be an immediate goal.

I appreciate Loren Tate's recent post about how well run the Illini sport programs are (in an era where money is used to control everything.) As alumni and fans we should be proud of this record. This has occurred on RG's watch - another mark of excellent performance.

Living for sport wins alone is not the mark of educated graduates. Sport is great, healthy and good fun but it is just another component of our lives. We each have our own internal challenges to master, and learning to learn is one of educations' greatest lifelong gifts. We have a free will choice to cheer or jeer our own teams whether they win or lose.

I choose cheer. Go Illini!

jjohnson wrote on August 17, 2010 at 11:08 am

JimOATSfan offers something that matters -- I sincerely believe -- to most of us alumni: we love to win, but know that most of these young men (and women) must make their ways in the world through their personal qualities and the quality of their education. Cheating and tolerating a high flunk-out rate do not achieve that. We do not need a return to either the slush fund scandal nor our other NCAA problems, and Guenther has done well there.

RPeterE wrote on August 17, 2010 at 12:08 pm

"I told him, 'I've coached the secondary for a lot of years at a lot of levels, high school, college and the NFL. I've never had a year where early in the practice, guys didn't get run by. That's just part of it." says Zook . . but reality is that Zook's secondary gets "run by" in games too. Worst in Big ten last season. Just shoosh Zookie!!!!

PeoriaIllini wrote on August 17, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Thank you for the well thought out posts JimOATSfan and jjohnson, level headed discussions of RG are a rarity on this board.