Wednesday's Camp Rantoul report
SURVEY SAYS ...
Each day during Camp Rantoul, we will run survey answers from the Illinois football players. Today's guests:
TIGHT END JON DAVIS
What celebrity do people say you look like? Cam Newton
Is President Obama getting re-elected? Duh
Which of your teammates can sing? None
What is your all-time favorite horror movie? "Are You Afraid of the Dark"
Did the U.S. women's team make you a soccer fan? Yep
Favorite food during training camp? Chicken salad
Is golf a sport? Yes, Tiger!
You can have any kind of pet, what's it going to be? Bear
Nickname you would like people to start calling you? JD3
Place in the world you most want to visit? Paris
Other than your girlfriend, who will be cool if you answer this, who is your dream date? Selena Gomez
TIGHT END/FULLBACK ZACH BECKER
In the NFL labor dispute, who did you support, owners or players? Neither. Neither group needs more money
What celebrity do people say you look like? Ivan Drago ("Rocky IV")
Is President Obama getting re-elected? Hope not
Which of your teammates can sing? They all think they can, but not many actually can
What is your all-time favorite horror movie? "Freddy vs. Jason"
Favorite food during training camp? Steak
You can have any kind of pet, what's it going to be? Polar bear
Place in the world you most want to visit? Anywhere in Hawaii
Other than your girlfriend, who will be cool if you answer this, who is your dream date? Julie Kuhn
BANDIT DARRIUS CALDWELL
What celebrity do people say you look like? Mike Epps
Which of your teammates can sing? Ian Thomas and Tony Durkin
What is your all-time favorite horror movie? "Insidious"
Did the U.S. women's team make you a soccer fan? Not really
Favorite food during training camp? Chicken tenders
You can have any kind of pet, what's it going to be? Tiger
Nickname you would like people to start calling you? DC6
Place you most want to visit? Paris
Other than your girlfriend, who will be cool if you answer this, who is your dream date? Keri Hilson
The team has single practices scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The final workout of Camp Rantoul will be a scrimmage Saturday at a time to be determined.
POSITION WATCH: Punter/kicker/long snapper
Illinois has a starting punter, freshman JUSTIN DuVERNOIS. And a potential new backup punter, DEREK DIMKE.
With the departure of MATT ELLER, Illinois coach RON ZOOK will turn to his starting kicker Dimke to be a reserve punter. Dimke has punted in the past.
Before the start of Camp Rantoul, Florida native DuVernois knew there was a difference between high school and college punting.
"I have to get it off in 1.2 seconds compared to a more relaxed feel in high school," DuVernois said.
He expected competition at Illinois, which he got early in camp from Eller.
"I knew coming into it that it wouldn't be easy and that I wouldn't have the starting job right away," DuVernois said.
Playing for a national champion in high school helped prepare DuVernois for college. His first high school punt was at Texas Stadium. It was a 39-yarder that wasn't returned.
"I had some nerves going into there," DuVernois said. "It's going to be just as big coming in, hopefully, against Arkansas State if I get to start then. Hopefully, I'll be ready for that."
The players trying to block the punts are bigger and quicker than what DuVernois is used to.
"I try to tune that out and just focus on punting," DuVernois said.
DuVernois has the benefit of a veteran long snapper, junior Zak Pedersen.
"It helps me out great," DuVernois said. "The quicker he gets it back, the more time I have."
COACHING CORNER: Running backs coach DeAndre Smith
He knows what to expect from JASON FORD and TROY POLLARD. DeANDRE SMITH is in his second year of coaching the Illini seniors.
The surprises, mostly good, come from the freshmen: JOSH FERGUSON and DONOVONN YOUNG.
"Those guys have been great," Smith said. "Every day, it's something new. They keep me on my toes. Their energy level is great. They want to learn. They're eager."
With just over two weeks left before the opener against Arkansas State, no decisions have been made about the status of the freshmen.
"It's still a work in progress, but I'll be surprised if they don't play," Smith said. "We're going to try to find some things that they do well, put them in some successful situations. Right now, they're progressing as well as any freshman can progress."
In recent practices, Ferguson and Young have shown the consistency the coaches are looking for.
"They're taking pride in not having any mistakes, and they're doing better with that," Smith said. "It's been two days in a row with no mistakes, which is again kind of unheard of for young guys."
Ford and Pollard have played better, in part, because of the push from the freshmen.
"It's working out great," Smith said.
Ford scored a touchdown in Saturday's abbreviated scrimmage and had three more in Sunday's full workout.
"He's what I had hoped he would be," Smith said. "He's done well so far. I can see him making runs and cuts. He's doing it on a consistent basis. His feet are great."
IN THE NEWS
If you hear PAUL PETRINO shouting at the Illinois offense during practice, it doesn't mean anybody is in trouble. Or that he's unhappy with the work being done.
"That's the way we coach," Petrino said. "We get after it. Those guys have been having a great fall camp. There were a couple of times this morning where we just didn't execute as well as we needed to.
"I'm really excited. So far this fall camp, we've been looking pretty darn good. But you've got to come out every day. Preparation, attitude, effort. If it's not 100 percent, we're going to grind them. Every day, you get better or you get worse. We've got to make sure we're getting better every day."
Three receivers have started to separate themselves from the pack: DARIUS MILLINES, RYAN LANKFORD and SPENCER HARRIS. A.J. JENKINS, who has missed time with injuries, needs to catch up, Petrino said.
The one open spot at tackle is led by redshirt freshman MICHAEL HEITZ, Petrino said. SIMON CVIJANOVIC is competing for the job.
"They're still battling," Petrino said. "Simon had his best day of camp (Tuesday).
"We've got to make sure up front that we're just a bunch of relentless, nasty, tough, ornery, hard, blue-collar guys. They've been doing a good job of that."
Tailback BUD GOLDEN has left the team, coach RON ZOOK said.
"He felt like he wasn't going to get an opportunity, so he's maybe going to go somewhere else," Zook said.
Listed third on the depth chart in the preseason media guide, Golden had fallen behind freshmen JOSH FERGUSON and DONOVONN YOUNG.
Backup kicker and punter MATT ELLER also has left the program.
"Matt felt like he wasn't going to get the opportunity he wanted," Zook said. "As I always tell them, the team's going to go on and it's going to take everybody that's here."
Attrition is part of college football.
"I don't like to see them go," Zook said. "I'd like to see them stay and fight through it."
WILLIE BEAVERS, a defensive tackle from Southfield (Mich.) Lathrup who signed with Illinois in February, might play at Memorial Stadium in 2011. Just not with the Illini.
Beavers is awaiting medical clearance to join Western Michigan's team. The Broncos play Sept. 24 at Illinois.
The medical clearance for Beavers is pending. He is not currently listed on the Western Michigan roster.
SLIP 'N SLIDE
The team made its annual trip Wednesday morning to the Hap Parker Family Aquatic Center. The tradition goes back to the early days of Camp Rantoul.
The players aren't required to go to the park. But kicker DEREK DIMKE wouldn't think about missing it. He started judging the player dives with former punter ANTHONY SANTELLA and continued it Wednesday.
"Ryan Lankford won this year," Dimke said. "He won last year, too. Him and TIM RUSSELL are the universal men. They can do whatever you want them to do."
The water was a bit chilly in the morning. Didn't matter to Dimke, who is in his final year.
"Every time, it gets better and better," Dimke said. "I'm going to miss it like crazy."
Defensive tackle AKEEM SPENCE got a scare during Tuesday's practice, twisting his ankle. But he was back on the field Wednesday morning for practice.
"Akeem's never had anything," Zook said. "If you've never had one before, it's a little different."