Beat writer Scott Richey spotlights three noteworthy items from the seventh day of Illini football training camp:
The way Illinois coach Bret Bielema has structured special teams work during training camp has allowed some of the Illini's position coaches to use those practice segments to run through more individualized training. Wide receivers coach George McDonald used that time Saturday with freshman wide receiver Ashton Hollins.
"He's a blank slate," McDonald said of the former high school quarterback. "He knows absolutely zero about receiver. He's bad in the drills, but when you get him in live football he's really good. ... He was always dropped back throwing the football so he doesn't understand the drills, but he understands how to get open. I say, 'Don't worry about the drills. You keep getting open, and we'll fix everything else.' He's made a nice transition and made a couple plays every day."
The Illinois defense was without veteran safety Sydney Brown during Saturday's practice at Memorial Stadium, but the word from defensive coordinator Ryan Walters is Brown is fine. Nothing serious. What was interesting, though, was the fact true freshman Matthew Bailey got some run with the first string defense in Brown's place.
"I'm really surprised about his maturity level and his football IQ," Walters said of Bailey. "He's learning the defense at a fast pace, and Sydney Brown has kind of taken him under his wing. It's funny. He looks like Syd and acts like Syd a little bit. He's a carbon copy — just a little taller. He's playing fast. The stage hasn't been too bright."
Versatility is key
Junior college transfer Isaiah Adams arrived on campus in January. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive lineman trained from his arrival to play multiple positions. That's the way Illinois offensive line coach Bart Miller wants to train his position group. Some linemen might trend more toward one position, but versatility could be important. Adams will likely start at left guard, but he can basically play anywhere but center.
"Coach Bart really told me at the start of camp to be ready," Adams said. "Left. Right. Whatever. If anybody goes down, I need to be able to flip sides. Drawing up plays, especially in the film room, you've got to draw up the whole play. You can't draw up what the left tackle is doing or what the left guard is doing. You've got to draw up what the center is doing and what the back side is doing. It really helps."