What’s better around these parts in early August than Illinois football starting practice? Lists. Lots of them. About all aspects surrounding Tim Beckman’s second Illini team. Beat writer MATT DANIELS offers up 10 different topics to satisfy fans’ curiosity:
3 best chances to watch practice
Aug. 12 — First practice in Rantoul starts at 9 a.m. Stick around for a scrimmage that kicks off at 7 p.m. at Rantoul High School’s Bill Walsh Field.
Aug. 14 — The BTN stops by in the morning, with practice at 9 a.m. before another one takes place at 4:15 p.m.
Aug. 19 — Last practice in Rantoul begins at 10:45 a.m., with players loading buses for the quick trip back to campus about 12:30 p.m.
3 important dates before the Aug. 31 Season opener
Aug. 11 — Media day festivities commence at Memorial Stadium from 1:30 to 3:45 p.m., with players and coaches signing autographs for fans from 4 to 5 p.m.
Aug. 17 — It’s the first scrimmage at Memorial Stadium since the spring game. Of course, only the team and coaches will know how it goes — it’s closed to the public and media.
Aug. 25 — The 6:30 p.m. practice at Memorial Stadium is open to students. Coming off a 2-10 season, the more goodwill the Illini can generate, the better.
3 Noticeable changes with Illinois
1. Increased tempo. The offense wants to play at a faster pace in the no-huddle system used by new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. Good chance to see how conditioned the Illini are for this style.
2. Who’s No. 12? Wide receiver Ryan Lankford still sports that number for one more season before Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt — he’ll be in Rantoul — dons the jersey for the 2014 season.
3. Beckman coaching. Not a dig against the Illinois boss, but he plans to work more closely with the team’s cornerbacks — the position he played in college at Kentucky and at Findlay — this season after he didn’t do so last year.
3 shows to DVR
1. The BTN crew will get ample practice footage and interviews from the Illini on Aug. 14 for the season preview program the channel will air at 7 p.m. Aug. 21.
2. WCIA will have a 30-minute special on the Illini at 7 p.m. Aug. 27
with sports director Aaron Bennett and his crew analyzing the upcoming season.
3. WAND, led by its sports director Matt Loveless, will continue with its Saturday morning specials previewing Illinois football and the rest of the college football scene starting at 10 a.m. Aug. 31.
3 possible dining options players can expect to find at The Linden during Camp Rantoul
1. Ribeye steaks, carved turkey, grilled pork chops, rice, potatoes, salad and vegetables.
2. Catfish, chicken breasts, cheese ravioli, baked potato bar, garlic asparagus, broccoli and fruit.
3. French toast, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, turkey sausage, bacon and scrambled eggs.
3 Illini to follow on twitter
1. Matt LaCosse (@Mattylac11)
The tight end is a big fan of Instagram and provides insights with a sarcastic sense of humor. Like this one: “Time to read about how every girl would marry every Blackhawks player,” the Naperville native tweeted on June 24, shortly after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.
2. Austin Teitsma (@teitsma44)
The defensive tackle from Glen Ellyn is a fan of Chicago-style food. As evident by this July 24 tweet: “Portillos I miss you, cheese fries and jumbo dogs :) someday soon we will meet again #cannotwait #needthat.”
3. Corey Lewis (@clewis70)
Sixth-year right tackle and New York Yankees fan makes it clear his interest in sports lies not just with football. “I really hope Chris Davis is not (on) steroids,” he tweeted July 15 about the Baltimore Orioles slugger. “It would be nice to have a clean home run hitter again.”
3 players who should get the most autograph requests in Rantoul
1. Nathan Scheelhaase
Epitomizes fan-friendly player. Fifth-year senior certainly should enjoy this aspect of his last training camp.
2. Donovonn Young
Former running backs to wear No. 5 have turned out pretty well (Mikel Leshoure and Rashard Mendenhall, to name two). The personable Young is hoping for a breakout 2013 season.
3. Wes Lunt
He’s a popular name among central Illinois fans. Opportunity for the young ones to get a sneak peek at possible quarterback of the future before he becomes eligible in 2014.
3 players you’ve never heard of that you will want to watch
1. Alex Hill
More fans should know the lineman (52) soon if he can keep hold of the starting center job once the season gets going.
2. Peter Bonahoom
The unheralded wide receiver knows his way around the practice fields in Rantoul because his high school team, Mount Prospect, took part in summer camps at the former Chanute Air Force Base.
3. Tim Clary
A year ago he was getting ready for Division III football at the University of Dubuque. Now he could find himself blocking for Illinois in crucial situations as the team’s fullback after a stellar spring.
3 radio shows to listen to on WDWS
Aug. 12 — Tune in at 5 p.m. for “The News-Gazette Sports Page,” which will be on location in Rantoul, before Brian Barnhart, Steve Kelly, Kurt Kittner and Martin O’Donnell break down the 7 p.m. scrimmage from Bill Walsh Field.
Aug. 13 — Steve Kelly hosts “Sports-Talk” at 5 p.m. live from the Camp Rantoul practice fields.
Aug. 16 — Kelly is back on “SportsTalk” at 5 p.m. on the final day afternoon practices will take place in Rantoul.
3 recruiting targets to give some serious love to if they show up to watch practice
1. Nile Sykes — The Montini linebacker is high on the radar of Beckman’s staff with the Class of 2014.
2. Matt Domer — Chicago Mount Carmel running back — who committed in early July — is the biggest name out of the high school players who have orally pledged to the Illini.
3. Terry Beckner — The East St. Louis defensive tackle will be the top Illinois prep prospect in the Class of 2015.