Tuesday's Camp Rantoul Report
SURVEY SAYS ...
Each day during Camp Rantoul, we will run survey answers from the Illinois football players. Today's guests:
QUARTERBACK MILES OSEI
You are in the Leaders Division. Give us a better name. East
What celebrity do people say you look like? Tiger Woods
Which of your teammates can sing? Not Nathan Scheelhaase
What is your all-time favorite horror movie? "The Ring"
Did the U.S. women's team make you a soccer fan? Yes, for a couple of weeks
Favorite food during training camp? Tacos
You can have any kind of pet, what's it going to be? A dog that's a boxer
Nickname you would like people to start calling you? M.O.
Place in the world you most want to visit? Kumasi, Ghana
Other than your girlfriend, who will be cool if you answer this, who is your dream date? "New New" from "ATL" (Lauren London)
RECEIVER FRED SYKES
Will there be an NBA season? Of course, everyone wants to see LeBron's response
What celebrity do people say you look like? Trey Songz
Which of your teammates can sing? A.J. Jenkins
What is your all-time favorite horror movie? "Paranormal Activity"
Favorite food during training camp? Crabs
You can have any kind of pet, what's it going to be? Monkey
Nickname you would like people to start calling you? Sweet Feet
Place in the world you most want to visit? Vegas
Other than your girlfriend, who will be cool if you answer this, who is your dream date? Keri Hilson
SAFETY STEVE HULL
You are in the Leaders Division. Give us a better name. Champions
What celebrity do people say you look like? Jim Carrey
What is your all-time favorite horror movie? Don't like 'em
Did the U.S. women's team make you a soccer fan? Yes
Favorite food during training camp? Burgers
You can have any kind of pet, what's it going to be? Dog/lion/tiger
Nickname you would like people to start calling you? Milk/White Chocolate
Place in the world you most want to visit? L.A.
Other than your girlfriend, who will be cool if you answer this, who is your dream date? Carrie Underwood
IN THE NEWS
MAKING A PUSH
When they mention the Illinois receivers, he is usually the third guy on the list. After senior A.J. JENKINS, who had 56 catches in 2010. And after RYAN LANKFORD, who had a breakout spring while Jenkins and DARIUS MILLINES were sidelined by injuries.
With his left foot fully healed, Millines is trying to move up the list. Every day in practice.
"It's going great for me," Millines said. "I feel comfortable out here running my routes and catching the ball.
"I'm just trying to do better than the day before."
He got off to a good start in Saturday's lightning-shortened scrimmage at Rantoul High School. He took one pass from NATHAN SCHEELHAASE and went 21 yards, breaking tackles to set up JASON FORD's 8-yard touchdown run. And just before the storm hit, Millines converted a third-and-long with an 18-yard catch.
Millines enjoys the coaching style of Illinois offensive coordinator PAUL PETRINO, who isn't shy about his displeasure when a play goes wrong.
"He just wants us to go hard," Millines said. "He always pushes us hard. He's been very rough on me. I look at it as a good thing. If he didn't yell at me and get on me that would tell me I'm not going to be a great player, which I'm trying to be."
It isn't all bad from the coach.
"He congratulates you," Millines said.
The long list of receivers helps to make all of them better, Millines said.
"If I see someone make a good play, I want to make a good play," Millines said.
Sitting out was difficult. He had surgery in March and was back on the field by June.
"I was taking a lot of mental reps, going over a lot of my notes I took in meetings," Millines said.
Illinois is the fourth pick to win the Leaders Division in 2011, according to bodog.net. Illinois is listed at 10:1. Wisconsin is the favorite at 5:4, followed by Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois. Purdue is fifth at 33:1 and Indiana is last at 40:1.
Overall, Illinois is 25:1 to win the Big Ten, making it the ninth choice. Nebraska, picked as the favorite in the Legends Division, is also the overall choice at 7:4.
Among the Illinois nonconference opponents, Arkansas State is the third choice in the Sun Belt, trailing Florida International and Troy.
Arizona State, which visits Illinois on Sept. 17, is the favorite to win the Pac-12 South and is the third overall pick in the conference behind Oregon and Stanford.
Western Michigan is the third pick in the MAC West behind Toledo and Northern Illinois. The Broncos are the sixth overall choice in the MAC.
NO S.I. JINX
You might soon find STEWART MANDEL's preseason Big Ten rankings on an Illinois bulletin board.
In Sports Illustrated, Mandel ranks Illinois last in the Leaders Division and projects a 1-7 conference finish. He picks Illinois 4-8 overall.
"We love to be the underdog," Illinois linebacker IAN THOMAS said. "That drives us a lot, seeing stuff like that. It just makes us work that much harder."
What do the rankings say about the Illinois program?
"We don't have any respect, pretty much," Thomas said. "I like it that way.
The history of Illinois football might play a part in the rankings. Illinois has never won bowl games in consecutive years and hasn't been to consecutive postseason games since the early 1990s.
"We're really working on changing that this year," Thomas said. "I think we're going to be really good."
Mandel picks Wisconsin to win the Leaders, followed by Penn State, Ohio State, Purdue and Indiana. Nebraska is the pick in the Legends.
Former Illini receiver JOE MORGAN, who finished his career at Walsh University, is making himself a potential keeper for the New Orleans Saints.
Signed as a free agent, Morgan already has a punt return for a touchdown in a preseason game against the 49ers.
Morgan had 41 catches as a senior at Walsh. He also ran track for the school.
The team has its final double session today, with workouts scheduled for 8:05 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. A single practice is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
POSITION WATCH: Guard/center
It seems like they've been around for a while. Like eight years. But two of the three actually have two more seasons at Illinois.
Guards HUGH THORNTON and JACK CORNELL and center GRAHAM POCIC form, with tackle JEFF ALLEN, one of the most experienced lines in the Big Ten.
Cornell is a fifth-year player going into his second season as a starter. The two-time News-Gazette All-Stater from Quincy Notre Dame was a key to the strong finish by the Illinois offense in 2010.
Thornton hasn't redshirted and started seven games at tackle his freshman season. He moved to guard in 2010 and will line up at the same spot next to Allen.
Pocic arrived on campus a semester early, vowing to take one of the tackle spots. Instead, he redshirted in 2008, played in 2009 and moved into the starting center spot last season. An All-Big Ten candidate, Pocic could also compete for the Rimington Award, which goes to the nation's top center.
Backing up the three inside players are redshirt freshman ALEX HILL and junior TYLER SANDS.
COACHING CORNER: Outside linebackers coach Ron West
The right calf is feeling better. It's still got some tape on it, but not the boot outside linebackers coach RON WEST wore the couple of days after suffering the injury.
"I'm good," West said. "The doctors looked at it and I'm fine now. I'm just doing rehab."
He was just coaching, showing his guys a tackling drill. He wasn't loosened up like his players and the calf muscle popped.
"You can't worry about it," West said.
He didn't walk off the practice field or seek immediate help. West had to finish off the session first.
It's been a rough Camp Rantoul for the coaches. Offensive line coach JOE GILBERT is fighting an achy knee, one damaged long ago. Gilbert wears ice on both knees after practice.
"I feel pretty good, I've got just one leg (injury)," West said.
West has been hurt before. During his coaching days at Baylor, he tore his hamstring while water skiing. He was able to immediately get ice on his leg and limit the damage.
"That was not the pain that my calf was," West said.
Other than the sore leg, West is enjoying his second Camp Rantoul. The players have a better idea of what he wants from them.
"We feel like we're ahead of where we were a year ago," West said. "We're doing more than we did a year ago. Doing something the second time is a lot easier than doing it the first time."
West works with RON ZOOK on the punt team. He said all of the special teams are improved because of the quality of the players.
"We're looking at so many young men right now in the special teams," West said. "We've got more guys this year who can run and do what we want to do. We didn't have that nucleus last year. We've got a lot of competition there."
The staff has one new assistant, secondary coach MIKE GILLHAMER. It has been a smooth transition, West said.
"He brought some knowledge to our side of the ball," West said. "He's helped us to be a better staff on defense."