URBANA — Marquez Beason arrived for Thursday’s Illinois football practice the same way he left Tuesday. On crutches with a brace on his right knee.
The freshman cornerback played a little stationary catch with wide receivers Ricky Smalling and Trevon Sidney and spent some time in the medical tent.
Mostly, though, Beason was on the sideline — crutches and all — watching his team go through another training camp practice. His status remains uncertain after he suffered a knee injury Tuesday morning.
“You guys saw him, right?” Illinois coach Lovie Smith said after Thursday’s practice at the Campus Recreation Fields. “He’s on crutches. That’s about it. You can tell he has a significant knee injury. That’s about where we are right now.
“There is no update. If you see a guy out on crutches and you saw the injury, it’s not looking good. When we have something definite to say, we will. Right now it’s just unfortunate. He was having a great training camp. Eventually we’ll get him back out there.”
Beason touched on his future with a post to his Instagram account on Thursday night underneath a photo of him getting carted off during Tuesday’s practice.
“Suffering doesn’t ask if you’re ready,” Beason wrote. “It may come slowly or with a vengeance, but it doesn’t ask permission, and it doesn’t care about convenience. There’s never a good time for your life to be wrecked. But the saying, ‘God will never give you more than you can handle’ tells me I have what it takes. It tells me I can bear whatever comes my way. It tells me God permits trials according to my ability to endure... My comeback will be amazing just watch... Gods Son.”
Beason had started to assert himself in the Illinois secondary before the injury. He had some early struggles the first few days, but as camp progressed he flashed his playmaking ability at cornerback and was challenging incumbent starters Nate Hobbs and Quan Martin a little more.
“He was a little down at the beginning,” Hobbs said. “It’s hard out here in camp for a freshman. I was like, ‘You’re a freshman. You’re supposed to feel like this.’ I tried to pick him up a little bit, and he responded.
“He’s really smart, and he was learning to play within the framework of the defense and putting all that together — processing things and then letting his athletic ability take over. He was looking real good, and we’re just hoping for the best for him.”
Illinois cornerbacks coach Keynodo Hudson saw Beason start to get more comfortable on the field, too. The first-year Illini assistant is high on Beason’s potential and will keep pushing the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Dallas native even while he’s sidelined with the injury.
“You just tell a guy like that to keep working,” Hudson said. “We really don’t know anything in depth about his injury to that nature. We’ve just got to keep working, keep persevering and then hope for the best.
“He has a tremendous football IQ, a great work ethic. He’s willing to do whatever it is to be great. I love that guy, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to become.”
Hobbs said Beason has already shown an ability to pick up technique and scheme. The four-star recruit, consensus Top 100 prospect and the first commit for Illinois in its 2018 class can only improve as he continues to trust in his athletic ability.
“As soon as he cracks down and really gets in the film room and trusts his ability to make plays and becomes a technician,” Hudson said, “I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
Illinois’ cornerback depth was a little better Thursday with Devon Witherspoon a mostly full participant. The late arriving freshman, who only committed the week camp started, was already getting some second team reps, as fellow freshman Joseph Thomspon, sophomore Dylan Wyatt and redshirt junior walk-on Christian Bobak were still unavailable.
“We’ve had a couple injuries at the cornerback position, but that had nothing to do with how we liked him,” Smith said of Weatherspoon, noting his agility and ability to play the ball in coverage.
“All those things we’re looking for,” Smith continued. “Now it’s just about him catching up. He’s behind, so it will be good to get him in full pads as soon we can to see exactly what he can do.”