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CHAMPAIGN - When Corey Lewis reinjured his surgically repaired knee, it created an opportunity for somebody. In this case, two somebodies.
As Lewis recovers, redshirt freshmen Michael Heitz and Simon Cvijanovic are taking turns at the offensive tackle spot opposite Jeff Allen.
"Both of those guys are very, very hard workers," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "They're very athletic. They've got big shoes to fill, but they'll get better every day. That's what spring practice is for. The more they're under the gun, the better they're going to be."
Heitz and Cvijanovic are competitors on the field and buddies off of it. They first got to know each other while being recruited by Illinois and are now roommates.
"We're in there watching film all the time and just working on getting better," Cvijanovic said.
"Me and Simon are competing," Heitz said. "One of us should be able to step up for the fall.
"Now, it's just a friendly competition."
Both players are happy to be on the field, though they want Lewis back.
"Any opportunity is a blessing," Cvijanovic said. "Any time you get those extra reps, help out the team it's awesome."
When he first arrived at Illinois, Cleveland native Cvijanovic knew there were players in front of him. Then, Lewis was hurt late last spring.
"The process got accelerated right away," Cvijanovic said.
One potential candidate at offensive tackle, Craig Wilson, has moved to defense.
"I'm ready to fill in when they need," Cvijanovic said.