CHAMPAIGN — Eric Finney sat on a trainig table, with his back against the brick wall on the East side of Memorial Stadium.
The sophomore from Corona, Calif., watched Friday morning’s practice from the sidelines.
It’s a place the junior college transfer will continue to watch from for most of August.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman said Finney, who injured his knee at the end of Wednesday morning’s practice, will miss at least “a couple weeks,” with the injury.
Beckman did not elaborate on exactly what happened to Finney’s knee.
“They went in and scoped,” he said. “They found out it wasn’t an ACL, so we’re glad with that. It’s very positive. That’s how we told him. Anytime they have an injury, I tell the kids to think positive about it. We never give them the negative news until we know for sure. That’s why I don’t let the press know until I know for sure.”
B.J. Bello and Mike Svetina are two players most likely to fill in at the STAR position until Finney — the likely starter at the hybrid linebacker/defensive back spot — recovers.
Illinois opens the season against Southern Illinois in 22 days.
It’s uncertain if Finney will play in that game.
“It’s going to be close,” Beckman said. “We’re probably going to be cutting that really close, but I think he’ll keep on progressing. He’s on the crutches now, and (we’re) hopeful by the beginning of next week, he’ll be off the crutches.”
Sweat dripped off the face of Tim Kynard and clung to his navy blue dri fit compression shirt.
The defensive end knew where he was heading after Friday’s first full-squad practice after four days of split-squad practices.
And first one in full pads.
“I’m going to get in a cold tub, just hang out, chill and get off my feet until meetings,” Kynard said with a laugh. “First full pad day, there was a lot of interesting things. Guys came out and played hard. It was tiring. We go through a lot of periods, and then at the end, it’s who wants it more? We had our sparring drill and six minutes of quick-pace offense of running to the ball at the end. Overall, I thought it was a good practice.”
Beckman has credited the Illinois strength and conditioning staff numerous times this week for their work this summer with the players.
And the players as well, making the transition to full pads less cumbersome.
“It’s a little bit different from maybe when I played when some guys went home and worked out on their own,” Beckman said. “Our guys are in good shape, but again, this game is a physical game. You’ve got to continue to work on fundamentals, tackling and those types of things to make sure we get better. You’re going to have to do a little bit of hitting to do that.”
What was learned
Several Illinois recruiting targets spent time at practices the past three days.
Centennial quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald, a Class of 2015 prospect, was in attendance Friday morning.
On Thursday, offensive lineman Nick Padla from Berrien Springs (Mich.), a Class of 2014 recruit, checked out campus in the afternoon while Miles Boykin from New Lenox Providence Catholic, one of the state’s top wide receivers in the Class of 2015, was at practice Thursday morning.
Wednesday had the busiest turnout of prospects and all were in-state players.
Class of 2014 commit Malik Turner, a wide receiver from Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, was in Champaign and several other of his SHG teammates were too, including Gabe Green, a 2015 prospect at quarterback, tight end or offensive line, offensive lineman Quinn Oseland (2015) and running back James Obebe, a 2016 recruit.
Jacksonville’s Gabe Megginson, a 2015 offensive tackle, Klayton Gettis, a 2015 wide receiver/defensive back from O’Fallon, Leonard Ross, a 2015 running back from Lyons Township and Kentrail Moran, a 2016 running back from O’Fallon, were also on hand throughout Wednesday.
“The unique thing about this state is the state requires a week off, so you are able to utilize that week when you’re practicing to bring recruits here,” Beckman said. “I think we’ve done a good job. Can’t wait until next year to do more and more with the recruits when they come in. You’ll see every day that there will be some up-and-coming future Illini players we hope that will be coming here to watch us practice.”
Director of player personnel Marcus Berry, assistant director of player personnel Matt Sinclair and other members of their staff help out with the recruiting efforts when prospects are on campus and the other coaches are at practice.
“You get a few minutes here and there where you make sure you send your Facebook messages and return your emails, but we’ve got a great on-campus recruiting staff,” recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh said. “Our job is to evaluate them, get them here and when they get on campus, those guys really help us a ton by taking them around campus.”
The sight of construction workers on the East side of Memorial Stadium was common this week.
New navy blue doors are going in and work above the doors is also.
“The old doors were probably at least 20 years old,” Illinois sports information director Kent Brown said. “It was just time for normal stadium upkeep and maintenance to replace the doors and entryways.”
The new scoreboard in the south end zone is nearly complete.
Orange lettering spelling out Memorial Stadium was put on the exterior of the scoreboard facing Kirby Avenue this week.
Brown said the lines for the main power feed were getting laid on Friday and are expected to be done by the middle of next week.
The scoreboard won’t be operational in time for Sunday’s Media Day and Fan Appreciation Day, but Brown said the new ribbon boards should be up and running.
“The video staff is getting trained and learning how it all works,” Brown said. “The next few weeks, they’re going to be about as busy as the football team getting ready for the season to start.”
What was said
“Our goal is really to just shock the world. Shock everybody. We know everybody who’s writing, everybody who’s on the outside, they’re not giving us no chance. They’re overlooking all of us. It’s our turn just to show people what we can do.”
— Safety Earnest Thomas on the Illini secondary