At Thursday's morning practice, the team was together for the first time. The weather was football player friendly, with cloudy skies and reasonable temperatures.
Here's more from beat writer Bob Asmussen, who will provide midday updates all week from Camp Rantoul:
— All of the newcomers, freshmen and transfers alike, wear a stripe on their helmet. Starting today, following each practice, one of the players is going to lose his stripe, Which is a good thing. This morning, it was Northern Illinois transfer Tommy Davis who got to take the stripe off of his helmet and put it on a dry-erase board. He signed his name next to it, signaling the end of newcomerism. And he was given a T-shirt that reads "Invest." "Tommy worked hard and he's done a lot of great things for us," Illinois coach Tim Beckman said. "We talked about it as a staff and he got 10 votes." The newcomers each are assigned a big brother. For Davis, it was fellow safety Earnest Thomas, who went in front of the team with his protege. "We all embraced him," Thomas said. "I had a plan that I was going to make sure he was the first one. We got that done."
— Former Illini defensive end and longtime NFL player Fred Wakefield attended today's practice. Wakefield was part of the first Camp Rantoul in 1998 and was also here in 1999 and 2000: Wakefield said he remembered spending a lot of time in Rantoul. Another face in the crowd today was Collin Ferguson, Josh Ferguson's dad, who made the drive down from Naperville. After a difficult first year that included a nasty injury, Ferguson is running well, catching passes and making plays. Earlier in the week, Gary Pocic, Graham's dad, watched two days of practice. His younger son Ethan, a News-Gazette All-Stater from Lemont, has made a commitment to LSU.
— No news yet on former Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin offensive lineman Ryan Klachko, who recently left Nebraska. The former News-Gazette All-Stater visited Camp Rantoul and reportedly has high interest in joining the program. A decision isn't likely until the team returns to Champaign. Illinois does have available scholarship. If Klachko joins the team, he will be the second Big Ten transfer this year, joining former Penn State offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki:
— One Illinois defensive lineman is paying close attention to the Olympics. For family reasons. On Tuesday, Erik Kynard won a silver medal in the men's high jump. Kynard is a distant relative of Illini defensive end Tim Kynard. Both grew up in Toledo. "I was following him on Twitter," Tim Kynard said. "I'm real proud of him." Kynard wasn't able to watch it live. But he saw the highlights, with a Russian jumper winning while wearing a T-shirt. "Cheaters," Kynard said. Erik Kynard attends Kansas State and Tim expects him to continue in the sport after college. "Keeping the Kynard name going," Kynard said. Another relative plays basketball at Ohio State. Did Tim Kynard ever try the high jump? "No chance," Kynard said. "I shot put freshman year and I wasn't good at it."