Matt Daniels: Hot reads from practice
1. Staying warm. Those who walked from Memorial Stadium to the Irwin Indoor Facility on Wednesday morning had rosy cheeks and watering eyes. Thanks, wind. For the players who went through the paces of the practice, they didn’t have to worry about the cold, going through drills and plays inside. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt, one of three signal-callers vying to replace Nathan Scheelhaase, certainly didn’t mind having his first spring practice with the Illini indoors.
“It’s easier to throw inside, that’s for sure, with no wind,” Lunt said. “We’ll be outside sometime; hopefully next week when it gets better.”
Illinois practiced in jerseys, shorts and helmets Wednesday. No pads or hitting yet, so when Aaron Bailey would scramble out of a play or Josh Ferguson broke through the line on a run, defenders had to pantomime a tackle.
“We can get a lot done,” Bailey said. “Some of the stuff we did in the fall,
so it’s coming back, but it’s a fun tempo. It’s not just the run game anymore
(for myself). (The playbook has) definitely opened up a lot. I’m enjoying myself.”
2. Splitting reps. All eyes are on the quarterback competition. Lunt, Bailey and Reilly O’Toole each took reps with the first-team offense Wednesday.
“If I would go with the first team first, then Wes would go with them the second time and so on,” O’Toole said. “We’re just taking equal reps. That’s all you can ask for is just a fair opportunity, and that’s what we’re getting.”
Illinois coach Tim Beckman said he is letting offensive coordinator Bill Cubit dictate who gets snaps with each unit.
“I didn’t even tell him how to split up the reps,” Beckman said. “We had Wes throwing with the ones sometimes, and then throwing with the threes sometimes. Reilly did the same thing, and so did Aaron.”
3. Under the weather. A cold, a dentist trip and dealing with the media was how Cubit started his week Monday. He still was dealing with the effects of not feeling well — and the media — Wednesday.
“I’m just great,” Cubit said with a straight face. “It’s like three straight days where I can’t sleep ... but I was really happy (because practice) was far different than the first one we had last spring. We’re very advanced, and the kids are playing a lot faster.”
The players took note of Cubit trying to get fully healthy again.
“He was struggling a little,” O’Toole said. “Actually at the end of practice, he was coughing, (and) he blocked some of it. I saw some of it land right on my head. I’ve actually been pretty sick, so he said I was the one who got him sick.”