Tuesday late practices: Tight ends progress
CHAMPAIGN — Offensive players have worn blue jerseys the first two days of Illinois football practice.
Except for the quarterbacks, who wear red.
And for Jon Davis, who is sporting a green jersey so far.
"Honestly, I don't really need it," Davis said of the jersey reserved for players with injuries, "but it's just precautionary."
Illinois coaches have a reason to show caution.
Knee injuries plagued Davis — who worked out with the Orange team on Tuesday afternoon — throughout the 2012 season, which saw his receptions drop from 22 in 2011 to only nine last fall.
"The knee's doing pretty good," said Davis, who is sporting a knee brace on his right knee. "I'm feeling good, and it's good to be out here the first two days."
Tim Beckman liked to utilize Davis in a multitude of roles last year when he could.
Plans are in place to keep Davis, 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior from Louisville, Ky., active when he's on the field.
"I'm doing a little bit of everything again just because of my versatility," Davis said. "Coach is working around that. It's something I've always done going back to high school."
Evan Wilson is another option offensive coordinator Bill Cubit can go to if he wants.
"It's a deep position once again, but we've got a lot of talent," Wilson said. "We're enthused. Being cooped up and just working out, there's nothing better than going out and playing football."
So is Matt LaCosse, who practiced Tuesday morning with the Blue squad.
"I thought Matt really caught the ball well," Cubit said. "He showed more athletic ability than I thought he did in the spring. I think the strength staff did a great job getting him more flexible, but he made some really hard catches out there."
Seeing Davis return to his 2011 form is an aspect Cubit, tight ends coach Alex Golesh and other players would love to see transpire.
If he stays healthy.
And can shed the green jersey at some point this season.
"Jon's been doing good," Wilson said. "He's looking healthy, running around and making plays like always. Jon is still Jon."
Donovonn Young continues to impress.
The projected starting running back seems to embrace the north-south philosophy Cubit wants out of his backs.
The leading returning rusher and pass catcher off last year's team, Young broke off a 50-yard run during Tuesday's afternoon practice.
"I had a pretty good day," the junior said. "I had a couple minor mistakes, but there's always something that can be fixed. We'll get that fixed for (Wednesday)."
Illinois is expected to practice in shells on Wednesday — shorts, jerseys and shoulder pads — after only practicing in shorts and jerseys the first two days.
Friday, the first full-squad practice, is expected to feature the first time the players are in full pads.
"We're excited," Young said. "A lot of guys are All-Americans with no pads on, but once we get the pads on, we'll see who truly is a football player."
What was learned
The new iPads the players received Sunday — a donation from the Illini Quarterback Club — were a common sight in player's hands after practice ended Tuesday evening before they headed to dinner.
The devices allows for game film and playbook study for the players, who can carry the 4th generation Apple product anywhere they want.
"They're not too shabby at all," running back Josh Ferguson said. "It was an utter surprise because we did not expect this at all."
The iPads replace the old binders used in the past for playbooks.
"Not using paper is always awesome," Ferguson said with a laugh.
What was said
"First two healthy days in a long time, so that's great. It's a little emotional to think about sometimes because it's been so long since I've been able to stay away from Field 3, the bikes and hanging with the strength staff and hanging with the athletic training staff. I'd rather be out there with the team instead."
— Sixth-year right tackle Corey Lewis, who has endured five knee surgeries during his career, on getting through the first two days of practice unscathed.