Illini taking it one step at a time

Illini taking it one step at a time

Here are three items Illinois coach Lovie Smith discussed in his weekly press conference that caught the attention of beat writer SCOTT RICHEY:

How times have changed

Lovie Smith spent the 1995 season at Ohio State coaching defensive backs under his college coach John Cooper. That was Smith's final season as a college coach until he took the Illinois job in March 2016. What he remembers most from his time in Columbus? Eddie George winning the Heisman Trophy. "I used to have hair back then and was a lot younger back then," Smith said. "Didn't have grandkids back then and I have 11 now. A lot of things have changed. You know when you're there it's one of those traditional programs, a lot of history behind it."

One step at a time

Eight straight losses has Smith looking for small improvements as positives for the Illini on the field even as much as he'd like for his team to be taking big steps forward. A one-dimensional offense, too many turnovers and not protecting the quarterback weren't small steps forward in Saturday's loss to Indiana. "There's been a lot of winnable games that we've had," he said. "Some areas of our team improved, but not enough."

Taking time to reflect

Illinois doesn't have many players facing down the end of their college careers. Just 10 seniors, in fact, on a roster of 103. Smith said he hasn't seen a lot of reminiscing or reflecting from that group, but he knows it's coming. "I think it sets in more when you have your last Dad's Day, last Homecoming," he said. "Now you're down to your last away game and your last home game, and it will set in even more. I want these players to play these best games they've played of their career their last games."