Q&A: Graham Pocic
The former News-Gazette All-Stater from Lemont had all sorts of college options, including Florida, Michigan and Penn State. But he liked the pitch from Ron Zook and hasn't regretted the decision for a moment. Projected as an offensive tackle, Pocic instead will end up being a three-year starter at center.
How long did it take you to get over the loss to Penn State?
About five days, until we watched it as an offense. We knew we had to move on and start worrying about Michigan. It was in my mind all week. Especially with the bye week with no practice, sitting at home.
Would it have been better not to have a Saturday off?
Yeah. Monday, we would have moved on to them and wouldn't have had time to sit and dwell on it. I would rather have been playing Saturday.
Did you get hit by a snowball?
No. I saw some. A bunch, actually. I'm not afraid of snowballs.
Last time you played Michigan it was pretty wild. Expect that kind of game again?
I don't think they are going to score like that on our defense this year. I'm hoping we put up that many points. It was so back and forth. Michigan last year was a ridiculous game.
How did you feel when you walked off the field after that game?
Miserable. I remember watching Michigan storm the field and it wasn't a very good feeling.
Best moment for you on the field?
The Texas Bowl win. Northwestern last year. Northwestern this year. Arizona State. The bigger wins that we've had.
How about the worst moment?
Definitely, the Michigan game last year. Penn State this year. Purdue this year. Ohio State. There are games you wish you could have plays back.
Shotgun snap or hands under center?
Hands under center. You know where the hand is. Shotgun, you're moving and you've got to get a spiral on the ball. It's a little more challenging. I struggled more under center than shotgun at first. I wasn't comfortable. I'd never snapped and had to get hit by Akeem Spence.
Are there differences in snapping to a particular QB?
Little differences. I'm definitely most comfortable with Nate (Scheelhaase). It's second nature. He says he can take a snap with his top hand.
You came to Illinois to play offensive tackle. How did you feel about the move to center?
I like it. I went to tackle, then inside to guard. They were just trying to find a spot where I could play right away. I was happy moving to center last year.
Your brother, Ethan, is a high-level recruit at Lemont High. As a junior, were you better than he is now?
No. I've been teaching him since he was young, beating up on him. He's a tough kid. I think he's a little more athletic than I was. He's probably a little taller than I was. We're pretty similar. I'd have to give it to him. He's done a lot of the work himself. He's come to me for advice.
Is there any pressure from family and friends to pick Illinois?
I think everyone is going to let him do what he needs to do for him. But I know my family wouldn't be disappointed if he came here. He feels real comfortable here. He spends a lot of Saturdays here. I can definitely see it. He's taking his time right now and looking at his options.
Can you picture Joe Gilbert playing football in college?
I can see it. I've asked him a bunch of times to see some film. I can see him being one of those tough centers, not very mobile, but gets the job done. Real crafty, a little nastiness.
Describe your relationship with him.
It's great. A lot of the times, we come off the field and he relies on me to tell him what the defense is doing. I rely on him to give me the information to get everybody on the same page and improve my technique. He's always pushing me to get better and I accept that and I know that's what is needed.
Have you thought about playing at the next level?
Yeah. I think everyone does.
Any chance you will leave Illinois a year early?
I plan on being back here next year. I'm not really worried about that right now. I'm just worried about winning these last three games.
How good can the line be in the future?
It's going to be a very competitive group. It's going to be awesome. There's a lot of young talent that's not ready yet.
There has been some criticism of the line at times this season. Do you think it's fair?
Yeah. I think it's fair. It's really just us taking turns making mistakes. It's disappointing, but we've got to push through it and keep trying to get better.
Tell me something people don't know about one of your teammates.
Jeff Allen watches little kids shows. I'll wake up in the morning, go into his room and he'll have cartoons on. Not even Saturday morning cartoons. He watches the Disney Channel. He doesn't watch it as much now. He's cut it back.
A night on the town with Carrie Underwood or 500 yards of offense in a win against Michigan?
Five hundred yards in a win against Michigan. I'll take 300 yards rushing. No sacks, too. And as many points as we can.
Tell me something people don't know about you.
I've got a fake tooth (upper middle).
How'd that happen?
Baseball, fourth grade. Not football. The first time, we were doing outfield fly ball drills. The person in front of me, it went off his glove and hit me in the mouth, broke it out. One time, my fake tooth got knocked out. I was playing first base and I missed the ball. I didn't swallow the tooth. I don't even wear it when I get on the field.