Junior LB sidelined with foot injury
CHAMPAIGN — Mike Svetina spent late Thursday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Just not out on the field where the linebacker would have preferred.
Svetina was resting in the players’ lounge, laying down on an orange leather couch with a noticeable black boot on his left foot, and the leg propped up.
Svetina will miss eight to 10 weeks with a broken fifth metatarsal bone in his foot.
The injury happened during Tuesday night’s practice session, and Svetina had surgery on Wednesday.
The junior finished with 57 tackles last season and was vying for the starting middle linebacker spot with T.J. Neal.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman said B.J. Bello has moved to the middle linebacker spot, with Ralph Cooper and LaKeith Walls possibly getting more reps there now.
True freshmen Austin Roberts, Tre Watson and Henry McGrew might get a crack there, too.
McGrew had seen most of his early practice time at the LEO spot, the hybrid defensive end/linebacker role.
“It was a clear-cut fracture,” Beckman said. “Saw him (Thursday) morning, and he was in great spirits. It was a successful operation. We wanted to make sure that everything got sound and was taken care of first.”
Cooper is the veteran of the linebacking corps.
The lone senior in the group knows he needs to build confidence in some of the newcomers now with Svetina sidelined.
“Mike was a big part of helping me out,” Cooper said. “Since he’s out, I’m just helping the younger guys step up to their role and play up to their abilities that they do have.”
Young and restless
Donovonn Young walked around Thursday’s first practice session with a purple jersey on and a helmet off.
The running back missed the practice with what Beckman called a minor concussion.
“He got dinged a bit,” Beckman said. “I know what Donovonn Young can do. With the concussion situation, (if) he’s my son, he isn’t going to practice. He’ll get back here as soon as he’s cleared.”
Ready to hit
Thursday was the last day of split-squad practices for the Illini, along with the last day of practices before the team goes through its first full practice together.
And first one in full pads.
“I’m ready for it,” cornerback Darius Mosely said. “There’s a couple guys talking here and there, so now you get to hit them and keep playing. Plus, it just gets us better.”
Earnest Thomas is looking forward to dishing out some hits.
Without getting any repercussions from the coaching staff.
“The receivers and the offense,” the linebacker said with a sly smile spreading across his face, “they don’t like to get touched.”
Lunt is preparing for a more lively practice on Friday night.
Don’t worry, though. The quarterbacks are off limits for the defense.
“I’m sure it will ramp up a lot,” he said. “I think everyone is excited for these split practices to be over, so we can all be together. There’s going to be a lot of intensity (Friday).”