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At noon each day, beat writer Bob Asmussen will offer a tasty tidbit of news and notes from spring football practice ... free of charge.

CHAMPAIGN - A year ago, Justin Green was the hittee, not the hitter.

But just before the start of the 2010 season, Green made an unselfish move to help his team. With Terry Hawthorne out because of foot surgery, Green switched from running back to defensive back.

The move paid off for the Illini and for Green, who finished seventh on the team in tackles with 55. Green is now an important part of the Illinois defense and will remain at cornerback.

"I'm learning a whole lot," Green said. "It's going real well."

Between now and the start of the season, Green plans to continue learning the defense and his assignments within the schemes.

Before last August, Green hadn't played defensive back. Now, he's entrenched.

"Playing running back was fun, but I realized I had a better opportunity on this side of the ball," Green said. "I feel a whole lot more comfortable at the position and I think I can keep getting better and better."

Green has a new position coach this spring, one with plenty of NFL experience. Mike Gillhamer joined the staff and is working with the secondary after more than a decade in the NFL.

"He's definitely been a great help to me," Green said.

Green is also getting help from cornerbacks Terry Hawthorne and Tavon Wilson.

A year after being the biggest question mark on the defense, the secondary is now considered the strength. Green, Hawthorne, Wilson and safety Trulon Henry have starting experience. Supo Sanni is healthy after missing the 2010 season with a torn Achilles.

Green and his pals want to produce more turnovers in 2011. They expect the interception and fumble totals to climb.

"I think if we can do that, the sky's the limit for us," Green said.

Gillhamer likes what he has seen from Green.

"He's doing a great job," Gillhamer said. "He has really bought in. His technique is really good." 

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

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kfj wrote on April 18, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Great News! Keep it coming and Go Illini!

JimOATSfan wrote on April 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Wow - can you imagine last years defensive intensity PLUS tight secondary coverage AND pics | turnovers???

Why not a Big10|12 Championship?

Go Illini!

PeoriaIllini wrote on April 20, 2011 at 8:04 am

JimOATSfan,

appreciate the enthusiasm about the team, but I find it is better to manage expectations with any sport team I watch. Saves me the heartbreak later on.

After saying that I am guardedly optimistic for an 8-4 season.