Camp Rantoul: Brown limited, BTN visits (w/videos)

Camp Rantoul: Brown limited, BTN visits (w/videos)

RANTOUL — Tim Beckman had a feeling he'd discuss Jonathan Brown's health with reporters after Wednesday morning's practice in Rantoul.

"I knew that'd probably be the first question that was asked," the Illinois coach said with a smile after Illinois went through a two-hour workout in front of BTN cameras.

The linebacker is not cleared yet to practice full bore after he suffered a concussion this weekend.

He had on the purple jersey used for injured players on Wednesday, the same outfit he wore during Tuesday's only practice.

"He takes a mental test, and then we've got to put him through some cardiovascular," Beckman said. "After he's done with the cardiovascular, we'll incorporate him into practice. He's getting better."

Beckman is hopeful Brown will go through more cardiovascular work during Wednesday afternoon's practice than he did Wednesday morning.

Brown could start contact drills by the end of the week, Beckman said.

"If he gets the cardio tonight, then he's allowed to get a minimal type deal (Thursday)," Beckman said. "It will probably be Friday before he gets to contact. If our players are feeling funny, we want to know. That's exactly what happened with J.B. because he kept on practicing, and then he started feeling funny."

***
The BTN's Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and former Illini Howard Griffith were a visible presence during Wednesday morning's practice.

The trio all took in the session before conducting interviews with several Illinois coaches and players on the makeshift stage set up near the south end zone at Field 2.

The Illinois preview show on BTN will air at 7 p.m. on Aug. 21.

"It's a great thing that they do here in the Big Ten to have a network come in and film your practices and be involved in practices, just like the NFL Network," Beckman said. "The kids love it."

Wednesday was the fifth straight day for BTN at a different Big Ten practice, with plans to watch Wisconsin on Thursday and Minnesota on Friday.

"One of the things I definitely have to do is hotel room numbers become a real challenge after a while," Revsine said. "Now I bring the little thing that the room key comes in everywhere I go, so the numbers written on there and you can't end up in the wrong room."

***
Griffith is optimistic about his alma mater's chances moving forward.

But admits it will be difficult.

Bringing in not only offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, but Cubit's offensive line coach at Western Michigan, A.J. Ricker, is a positive sign, according to Griffith.

"So many times when you bring in a new offensive coordinator, you don't get to bring his offensive line coach in, so there's some cohesiveness that's there," Griffith said. "When I watch them out here working, you see ... the gameplan developing. Now it's just a matter of being able to stay the course and continue to build on it."

Despite coming off a 2-10 season, Griffith has noticed subtle changes with Illinois.

"This is a drastically different team than the first time I saw them in their first spring," he said. "I just think that they have a swagger about them (and) there's a calmness around the program. I like the direction they're going."

Griffith got the chance to catch up with one of his former roommates when he played at Illinois, wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy, along with defensive line coach Greg Colby, who was one of the assistant coaches on staff when Griffith played at Illinois from 1987-90, on Wednesday.

Last year the BTN stopped in Champaign when Illinois was practicing at Memorial Stadium, so this was Griffith's first trip back to Rantoul since 2011 when the BTN was at Illinois' weather-interuppted scrimmage at Bill Walsh Field.

"I like watching them in the stadium, that way when I leave here, I can go right down to Green Street," Griffith said with a laugh. "There's some built-in advantages to being there, but I understand why they come here and what the mind-set is of bringing them here."

Griffith doesn't mind the travel-heavy schedule the BTN goes through each August.

"As I always say, it beats digging ditches," Griffith said. "At the end of the day, I sit around and watch football all day."

***
Eric Finney has donned the purple jersey all of Camp Rantoul.

The projected starter at the STAR position is recovering from a right knee injury he sustained last Wednesday during practice in Champaign.

Mike Svetina is filling in for Finney at STAR while the junior college transfer sits out.

"We've moved Svetina over there because he's an experienced guy," Illinois outside linebackers coach Al Seamonson said. "We've got a little depth at inside (linebackers), so it's more, 'Hey, let's get our best guys on the field.' Mike can play in space decent. He's learning what he's got to do out there because it's a little new, and he's been in the box. We can't put him in situations that aren't ideal for him, like man coverage on a No. 2 receiver, but in the zone package and the blitz package, he's picked that up very well already."

Zepheniah Grimes continued his reps at the weakside linebacker spot normally occupied by Brown on Wednesday.

"He's obviously athletic," Illinois inside linebackers coach Mike Ward said of Grimes. "He was a STAR a year ago that because of lack of depth, we moved him into linebacker. His upper body strength is really good, and his coverage skills are really, really good because he was a (defensive back) in high school. Right now, he's having a good camp for us. He understands the defense and he plays to his strengths."
 

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