UI-Cincy: Final Word

UI-Cincy: Final Word


CHAMPAIGN — If Ted Karras doesn’t start at right guard against Cincinnati, he should at least play.

After missing the opener against SIU with a left ankle injury, it was a weird feeling for the redshirt sophomore, who started all 12 games last season.

“Not being able to play with my brothers hurt me a little bit,” Karras said. “I had never missed a game in my life, so it was a new experience for me.”

Offensive line coach A.J. Ricker didn’t indicate Karras would start, which could mean the same starting five of left tackle Simon Cvijanovic, left guard Joe Spencer, center Alex Hill, right guard Michael Heitz and right tackle Corey Lewis.

“What I don’t want to do is rush him back, and we’re back even farther,” Ricker said. “If you ask that kid if he’s all right, he’s going to lie to you, which is what you want. You’ve got to be careful with him.”

Ricker is glad Karras is an option he can use again.

“He had the best camp out of all the (offensive linemen),” Ricker said. “You hate to lose anybody, but I knew if there was somebody we’d lose that would come back faster than anybody else in that room, it would be Teddy. He’s what you’re looking for in that mentality, and I think the guys feed off of him. Really, when he was out, we didn’t have that guy. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but we didn’t have that tough blue-collar attitude that he brings.”

 

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Illinois will name four captains the Thursday before every game all season. 

V’Angelo Bentley, Jonathan Brown, Nathan Scheelhaase and Jon Davis, as voted on by the players, will serve as captains against Cincinnati.

It’s the second captains honor for Scheelhaase this season after he, Corey Lewis, Tim Kynard and Miles Osei were captains for the Southern Illinois game.

 

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Tommy Tuberville had a chance to enjoy two movies, including most of “Now You See Me” on Friday afternoon. Cincinnati arrived at Urbana’s Holiday Inn about 3:30 p.m. after leaving campus shortly before noon.

The Bearcats coach saw all of “Olympus Has Fallen” on the team bus before it pulled into the Holiday Inn parking lot before “Now You See Me” finished.

“I was about 20 minutes away from the ending, so don’t tell me the ending,” Tuberville said with a laugh Friday afternoon from the Holiday Inn. “It was a good movie, though.”

Cincinnati did not go through a walkthrough Friday evening at Memorial Stadium. It’s not in Tuberville’s nature to do so.

“We take a lot of their time during the week,” he said. “I just want them to kind of relax on Friday. They’ll have a walkthrough (this) morning in their meeting rooms, but that’s about it. I’ve had the same routine for 17, 18 years now.”

 

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Expect Munchie Legaux and Brendon Kay to play quarterback for Cincinnati today. Tuberville said he doesn’t plan on naming a full-time starter until the Bearcats begin American Athletic Conference play Oct. 5 at South Florida.

“It’s no big deal,” Tuberville said. “If you had a senior and a sophomore, then it might be different, but both are seniors.”

 

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The uniforms Cincinnati and Illinois will wear might make a fashion designer cringe.

Cincinnati unveiled an all-white look with a white helmet, white jersey and white pants against Purdue.

For Illinois, the Bearcats are planning on white helmets, white jerseys and red pants.

“I’m kind of a traditionalist, but I think everybody across the country has changed their uniforms,” Tuberville said. “I leave it up to our seniors and what they want to wear.”

Illinois, which wore an orange jersey and white pants with its new orange helmet featuring a navy blue Block I against the Salukis, is set to wear the same combination against the Bearcats.

“We just decided to stay with the orange,” coach Tim Beckman said. “We like the fact that we’re the only Big Ten team that wears orange.”  

 

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The topic is bound to leave Beckman exasperated. No, not injuries.

The second-half struggles Illinois has had. 

“We’ve done everything, from running into (the locker room) between practices,” Beckman said. “It’s brought up a lot to this football team, and it’s been brought up now for 10 months. We have got to make strides on coming out more focused and have the same attitude that we do in the first quarter.” 

Illinois won the toss against SIU and received. The Illini have won the toss and deferred, too. All in an effort to produce better results in the third and fourth quarters.

“It’s a mind-set that we have to beat, in my opinion,” Beckman said. “It’s just happened so long that we’ve got to come out refocused and play the second half.”

 

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Eric Finney is anticipated to make his Illinois debut against Cincinnati. The junior college transfer, who was the projected starter at STAR coming out of spring practice, injured his right knee a month ago during the first week of preseason practice in Champaign. Mike Svetina started against SIU at the STAR position.

“I don’t think he’ll be able to play a lot, but just having him back will be nice,” Beckman said. “It kind of frees up Svetina to play a little bit inside.”

 

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Illinois, which finished its walkthrough shortly after 6 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium, lets its players have an option of watching a movie every Friday night at the Hawthorn Suites after dinner at the Champaign Country Club. By no means is it mandatory, but most show up. 

So far, the movie theme has focused on magic. The team watched “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” the comedy featuring Steve Carell and Jim Carrey prior to the Southern Illinois game. 

Friday night’s main attraction? 

The thriller “Now You See Me,” starring Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo. 

 

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Rod Gilmore underwent coaching changes during his playing career at Stanford in the early 1980s. The former Cardinal defensive back, who will serve as color commentator for today’s game on ESPN2, knows what Illinois is going through in that regard. A win against the Bearcats would do wonders for Beckman’s team, Gilmore said.

“It’d be huge,” he said. “Not just for the fans, but for players. When you have a new system and a relatively new coaching staff, as a player, you want to buy in, but when things don’t go as well as you hope, it’s tougher. You beat Cincinnati, you’ll get everybody on the team buying in.”

One program Gilmore keeps a constant eye on — Stanford — has bought in. And Gilmore is sure glad to see his alma mater thriving. 

“Jim Harbaugh was the right guy at the right time to shake that program up and rebuild it,” he said. “David Shaw is the perfect guy to take the next step and take them to a higher level. That team plays with a lot of confidence. They’re as good as anybody in the country.”

 

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How future nonconference schedules will look for Illinois when the Big Ten goes to a nine-game league schedule in 2016 started to take shape this week with the addition of South Florida in 2017 and 2018. 

Illinois only needs one more nonconference opponent in 2017 because it is playing at South Florida on Sept. 9, 2017, and hosting Western Kentucky on Sept. 16, 2017. 

The other game, which should take place either Sept. 2 or Sept. 23, will likely be at Memorial Stadium. The schedule right now has six home games for Illinois, and Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas would like Illinois to play at least seven home games every year.

“You have a little bit more leeway if you do home-and-home with BCS-type teams,” Thomas said.

Enter South Florida.

“I still consider (South Florida) a high-level program, there’s no doubt about it,” Thomas said. “Competed against them all the time in the Big East. You want to look at geography, but you also want to look at, ‘Do they help us in other areas?’ If we want to go down to Florida and have a presence, this could help us in recruiting.”

Thomas said he’s already started work on scheduling games as far out as the 2023 season. 

Just not with any FCS teams. 

The Big Ten wants to do away with scheduling those opponents starting in 2016.

“As we move forward, especially knowing strength of schedule is going to be a big part of the next football playoff scenario, the intent is that we all begin to schedule up,” Thomas said. “When you get into those three nonconference games in the future, you’ll be looking at BCS-type games that you’ll be playing with the group of five (power conferences) or whatever term you want to use. You’ll see teams like South Florida.”

 

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Rainy weather interrupted some plans last weekend for a few recruits Illinois wanted to get on campus. 

The inclement weather caused most of the high school games in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs last Friday night to get pushed back to last Saturday.

One player, wide receiver Miles Boykin from New Lenox Providence Catholic, was slated to attend the opener against Southern Illinois but could not make it. The Class of 2015 prospect is expected to attend the Cincinnati game.

Boykin had his first offer from Illinois and picked up offers from Michigan State, Toledo and Western Michigan this week. He added a Mississippi offer on Friday.

Boykin is one of 22 high school players Illinois is planning on having in town, with a large emphasis on Class of 2015 recruits. 

Only four high school players from the Class of 2014, offensive lineman Nick Padla from Berrien Springs (Mich.) High, offensive tackle Yanni Demogeronatas from Orland Park Carl Sandburg, wide receiver Jon Vea Johnson from West Side (Ind.) and Rock Island Alleman offensive lineman Jacob Appleman, are expected to be in the Memorial Stadium stands. 

Two Class of 2014 commits for Illinois, twin brothers Tyrin Stone-Davis and Tyree Stone-Davis from Pierce (Calif.) College are set to arrive on campus this weekend for their official visit. Tyrin, a wide receiver, gave an oral commitment to Illinois on July 23. Tyree, a cornerback, did the same July 25. 

Other top targets in the Class of 2015 Illinois should have at the Cincinnati game include Centennial quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald, Benet Academy quarterback Jack Beneventi, DeKalb running back Dre Brown, Jacksonville offensive tackle Gabe Megginson, St. Xavier (Ohio) defensive tackle Simeon Lane, Bolingbrook defensive end Micah Dew-Treadway, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin offensive lineman Quinn Oseland, Seymour (Wis.) offensive tackle John Dietzen, Homestead (Wis.) defensive end David Pfaff, Vianney (Mo.) defensive end Jordan Hardwick, Crown Point (Mo.) quarterback Jake Jatis, Lindbergh (Mo.) offensive lineman John McNamara, Naperville Central linebacker Bobby McMillen, Glenbard North quarterback Brett Gasiorowski, Ottawa kicker Tristan Cunha and West Side (Ind.) quarterback Ramonne Atkins.

 

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Friday night was the first chance for Illinois coaches to get out and see high school players in a game. The evaluation period began Sept. 1 and runs through Nov. 30. Beckman said no assistants were sent out recruiting Friday night, but he plans to have some of his assistants at games next Friday night, most likely in Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. Illinois plays Washington at Soldier Field in Chicago next Saturday evening.

“It’s a big (recruiting) week for us next week,” Beckman said. 

Matt Daniels

 

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