Beat writer Scott Richey spotlights three noteworthy items from the second day of Illini football training camp:
There's no rush for Donovan Leary this season. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound freshman quarterback has time to develop. The Sicklerville, N.J., native has two Jersey guys ahead of him in Tommy DeVito and Art Sitkowski. Walk-on Ryan Johnson is also head of Leary on the depth chart. While it might not be until 2023 or even 2024 when Leary finds the field, he's at least made a good first impression.
"He's got a lot of polish," Illinois offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. said. "He's very fundamentally sound. But there's a whole lot to learn. He's very eager for that. One of the better incoming freshmen, ones I've been around before, from a standpoint of his eagerness and wanting and his willingness to learn and soak up information. He's a sponge in that regard, and that will go a long way in his development."
Year two for the Illinois defense under coordinator Ryan Walters means a greater comfort level with the scheme. The players have become secondary teachers on the field, which is exactly what Walters wants.
"That's how I gauge where their comfort level is within the defense," Walters said about the Illinois veterans. "They'll be on the sideline talking about what the 2s saw out there. If a coach missed a coaching point with one of the guys who were out there, the players are coaching themselves up. To me, that's a good sign of leadership and a good sign of those experienced guys understanding what we're trying to do conceptually.
"They all talk. I don't want any one leader. I don't want any one signal caller. Great defenses that I've been around are super chatty. These guys are doing that."
First-year special teams coordinator and specialists coach Sean Snyder entered a unique scenario at Illinois. Punter Hugh Robertson, kicker Caleb Griffin and whoever wins the long snapper spot (last year's back Aidan Hall has a leg up) are all heading into their first season as starters. Snyder isn't all that worried, though.
"I have more concern getting to know all the guys and where we're going to fit them in at positions," Snyder said, referring to his kick and punt coverage and return teams. "Right now, Hugh has been punting the ball pretty well, and Caleb has been doing a nice job. All of the snappers are doing a good job. Coaching those guys and getting them kind of where they're consistent is a big point right now. I think they're going to be in a pretty good place by the time we get to the season."