1. Wes Lunt won’t throw a pass Saturday
The Rochester product won’t have the chance to pace on the sidelines. Or wear his No. 12 jersey. Beckman said the Oklahoma State transfer — who isn’t eligible to play until 2014 because of NCAA transfer rules — will meet with recruits before games.
“We’ll utilize Wes in that way,” Beckman said.
It’s easy to say Lunt’s addition has helped Illinois recruitingwise. Four wide receivers who will join Illinois for the 2014 season have committed since Lunt transferred in mid-June. His biggest pitch will have to come to offensive linemen, the biggest positional need Illinois has in the Class of 2014. Illinois only has one offensive lineman committed now in that class, with Signing Day less than six months away.
2. New helmets, meet Grange Rock
The Illinois football team will come out of its locker room in the north end zone with new helmets. A navy blue Block I on an orange helmet replaces the traditional slanted Illinois in white lettering on an orange helmet. For this year. Also new this year, Illinois will take an extra second or two near the 39,200-pound block of limestone that was dedicated in Red Grange’s honor prior to an Oct. 22, 1994, game against Michigan.
“Every one of our football players will touch that before we come running out on the football field,” Beckman said of the rock that came from the same quarry in Bedford, Ind., that provided rock for the construction of Memorial Stadium.
That’s not the only pregame change Beckman has in place for his team. They’ll also stand on the sidelines prior to the performance of the national anthem.
“We will be attacking the field earlier,” he said.
3. Writing’s on the wall
Illinois was in the process this week of listing the school’s Big Ten champions and national championship teams (no, Loren Tate didn’t see all of those). The new scoreboard and ribbon boards sure spice up the place, too. Even if the product on the field isn’t the greatest this year, athletic director Mike Thomas is sure trying to make the game-day experience more enjoyable for fans.
4. Injury report
Beckman doesn’t want any questions asked about the topic he deems off limits. But the team is planning to release an injury report this evening to the media. By Saturday morning, it will become clear as to who will play and who won’t play. The real question mark involving the starters is on the offensive line. Will right guard Ted Karras scrap the protective boot he has worn for more than a week to protect his left ankle? Or will Karras’ injury cause a reshuffling to a unit that floundered last fall? Stay tuned.
5. Freshmen will play
Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has indicated he plans to utilize quarterback Aaron Bailey at some point against the Salukis. Beckman said offensive linemen like Austin Schmidt or Christian DiLauro could see the field, too. Darius Mosely, Jaylen Dunlap and Dawuane Smoot are others Beckman has singled out on defense during the past three weeks of practice.
“That’s just how we’re going to become a better football team,” Beckman said. “I really don’t believe that we can get any better as a football team if we don’t play. You’re going to see some twos and two-and-a-halfs — we don’t even have threes — playing.”