In the news | Lovie Smith in a walking boot

More

In the news | Lovie Smith in a walking boot

PLAYING THROUGH PAIN

Third-year Illinois coach Lovie Smith wore a walking boot on his left leg during the opening workout.

"I'm embarrassed to even talk about it really," Smith said. "I was hoping I could just blend in."

The soon-to-be 60-year-old — his birthday is May 8 — said he suffered a muscle injury.

"The older I get, my mind keeps telling me that I'm 21," Smith said. "Once you start hanging around with the guys and you start moving around with then, then all of a sudden, when you start going a little bit harder than you should, old age lets you know that I'm a granddad with grandsons in college."

SITTING OUT

Freshman defensive lineman Verdis Brown started school a semester early after finishing up at IMG Academy. But the former Chicago Mount Carmel player isn't participating in spring practices.

"He'll be around," Smith said, "He's a full-time student here. Once the freshmen get here, he'll be back out with the team."

How is Brown responding?

"You have minor things that don't go exactly the way you want from time to time," Smith said. "For him, he knows when he will be back out there."

MOVING OVER

Justice Williams, who spent his first three years on defense, is now at receiver. Williams played the position at Frisco (Texas) Wakeland.

Late in the 2017 season, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Williams worked at receiver.

"We saw promise," Smith said. "We moved him there permanently. He gives us a little different body type at the position. A big guy, should be a good blocker out there and he has good hands."

Kendall Smith is also changing sides, with the Bolingbrook native going from receiver to safety. He played in all 12 games last season as a true freshman, primarily on special teams, and recorded one tackle.

COACHING THE COACHES

Four new assistants joined the staff this spring, two on each side of the ball. Coordinator Rod Smith and tight ends coach Corey Patterson are on offense. Safeties coach Gill Byrd and line coach Austin Clark are new to the defense.

"We've had time together," Lovie Smith said. "You have time to plan every period on exactly what you want to do, what you want to install, the situations we want to be in every day. So practice should run fairly smooth.

"We've talked about how we run a practice. To get out here and have a chance to work with the players for the first time, it's always neat to see."

The Illini were without defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson, who has the flu, on Tuesday.

"You have to adjust a little bit with that," Smith said.

More

-