Tuesday early practice: Lunt with Blue team
CHAMPAIGN — The weather wasn’t what one would expect for an early August practice.
Clouds and mild temperatures dominated the third Illinois practice of fall camp on Tuesday morning.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman gave kudos to Tim Knox, the program’s director of football operations.
“As a football coach, you want it hot and you want them sweating,” he said. “It’s just one of those things. Our weather coach is Coach Knox, so we’ll give some credit to Knox.”
The Blue squad hit the practice fields first Tuesday, less than 14 hours after finishing up their first workout Monday evening.
The Orange squad, which practiced Monday morning, will take to the field later this afternoon.
“There’s reason behind the madness,” Beckman said. “You’d have that night practice and then get their bodies acclimated to practicing when they come right back. I thought they did a great job.”
Beckman credited strength and conditioning coach Aaron Hillman for the work he put in with the players this summer.
“It speaks a lot for Coach Hillman and his staff on what they did to get our players prepared for two-a-days,” he said.
The post-spring practice depth chart is listed. Doesn’t matter to new offensive line coach A.J. Ricker.
“We have no starters right now,” he said. “We have guys with experience, but we don’t have any guys that we’re just saying, ‘That’s our starter right now,’ and that’s the way you want it. They’re competing their tails off. The young guys are pushing the older guys.”
True freshman Austin Schmidt is listed behind Simon Cvijanovic at left tackle, with junior college transfer Dallas Hinkhouse behind Schmidt.
“It’s more the mental aspect right now with those guys understanding what they’re doing,” Ricker said. “Hinkhouse is doing good. He must have had a great summer because more the mental aspect, he’s not having a bunch of (missed assignments). That was his big thing in the spring, but he’s done a heck of a job. He’s definitely been studying the playbook.”
Ricker would like to see Hinkhouse (6-5, 275) add weight to his frame.
“He knows he has to get bigger,” Ricker said. “He’ll get there, and he knows that it’s important to him.”
One of the more intriguing prospects on the defensive line is junior college transfer Abe Cajuste, who had an impressive list of offers before he chose Illinois last December.
New defensive line coach Greg Colby believes Cajuste has found his primary position, too, after Illinois utilized him both at defensive end and defensive tackle this spring.
“We’ve got him in at tackle right now, and that’s where he naturally fits in,” Colby said. “He’s more comfortable there, and I’m seeing some things in the one practice where he’s been out there that he’s had a good summer.”
Cajuste is slated to practice this afternoon with the Orange squad.
“In the spring, he kind of bounced around positionally, partly because of depth needs,” Colby said. “He really came out of spring (and) we were unsure of where he really belonged. He knows what he’s doing right now, a lot better than he did in the spring. I think he’ll be a factor for us.”
The first noticeable switch on the rosters took place Tuesday morning.
Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt worked out with the Blue squad after taking part in practice Monday morning with the Orange team.
“We just wanted to get him some more reps and see him throw to different receivers,” Beckman said.
Look for more flipping of quarterbacks between the two teams while split-squad practices carry on through Thursday.
“We keep the receivers where they're at,” Beckman said, “but we’ll switch the quarterbacks so the guys have got to throw to different people.”
Cubit said the decision to move Lunt came about so he could get more reps, too, after working in with Nathan Scheelhaase and Aaron Bailey on Monday.
Lunt shared quarterbacking duties with Reilly O’Toole and Chase Haslett on Tuesday morning.
“Just trying to get him to feel comfortable,” Cubit said. “It’s hard to feel real comfortable when you’ve got to start thinking about the snap count, but you can see it in his natural ability. He’s a great kid. He’s learning and taking notes in there like he’s preparing to be the starter for this year, which is really encouraging.”
What was learned
Freshman Marchie Murdock has caught the coaches’ eyes.
While it might prove difficult for the Arlington, Texas native to get on the field this season — he’s one of 17 wideouts on the roster — he is making some strides after two practices.
“Marchie Murdock had a great day today,” Beckman said.
Murdock had a productive senior season at Legacy High School last fall, hauling in 49 catches for 770 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He’s not the biggest wideout (6-1, 180), but Beckman showed last year he wasn’t shy about playing freshman wideouts like Justin Hardee and Kenny Knight.
“He’s another one that I thought the last two days who has done some things,” Cubit said. “I told him ‘You’re a lot better football player than you are a basketball player,’ because that’s the only time I saw him was at a basketball game. He’s done some really nice things.”
What was said
“Has no clue what he’s doing yet, and we need to get him in shape, but Bryce has got some quickness and he’s strong as a bull. I’m looking forward to when he develops a little bit.”
— Colby on Bryce Douglas, freshman defensive tackle and son of former Illinois men’s basketball standout Bruce Douglas.