UI football notes: One 'step at a time'

UI football notes: One 'step at a time'

Here's what caught Illinois football beat writer Bob Asmussen's attention during Thursday's spring practice at Memorial Stadium:

Illinois coach Lovie Smith, who wore a protective boot on his left foot during Tuesday's workout, was boot-free on Thursday.

"You didn't see me sprinting or anything out there," Smith said. "Step at a time."

Same goes for the Illini who are returning from injury.

"They're on track," Smith said. "If a guy has a major injury during the season, the odds are he's going to miss some time in the spring. You realize that. The (linebacker) JakeHansens and (defensive back) TonyAdams, who had surgery, they're all on schedule doing just about everything. Having them go through contact work is not in the cards right now."

Chill in the air

It was 22 degrees when the team started its workout at 7:30 a.m. Just what the head coach ordered.

"For spring practice, you really want a couple days like this," Smith said. "In an ideal world, we have a couple rainy days. It's a good chance you're going to have to play in the rain. And in Champaign, there's a good chance you're going to have to play when the weather's a little colder."

Thursday's practice was the first in pads.

"I saw a few good things out there," he said.

Smith plans to stay outside for the rest of the workouts, if possible.

"We try to," Smith said. "Unless it's just raining and bad footing and something like that, we'll go out. This is home. For it to be a home-field advantage for us, we have to know how to deal with it."

Time is right

Smith bumped spring ball back a few weeks. Last year's opening workout was Feb. 14, and the session ended March 10. This year, the final spring practice is April 7.

"I believe in trying different things," Smith said. "We're practicing in the morning this year. Last year we didn't. Just trying to find the right mix."

Smith wanted more time between the end of recruiting and the start of spring workouts.

"Hopefully, it will help us on the other end," Smith said.

Changing his ways?

New offensive coordinator RodSmith wasn't in his customary shorts during Thursday's workout. Don't read much into it.

Smith was entertaining recruits and didn't have time to change out of his pants.

He wore a thin windbreaker during the workout. He will likely be in shorts for the rest of the spring session.

Ready to help

Most of the 2017 recruits got on the field as freshmen. But not all of them.

Defensive linemen KendrickGreen and LereOladipo sat out as redshirts.

"As a general rule, you would probably like to redshirt all of your freshmen coming in," Smith said. "Let them adjust to college life. We had a few numbers at their positions, so it just allowed them to adjust to college life a little bit more and made them a little bit more anxious to play. It's been a while since they've had a chance to really compete on the field. They're going to help us win a lot of games, and it's good to get them started."

Smith described them as "strong, athletic big men that can move and can run."

Both were productive high school players, with Green helping Peoria win a Class 5A state title in 2016 and Oladipo having a solid career at Huntley.

"We have a profile that we're looking at with our defensive linemen," Smith said. "Both of them fit it."