Illinois wrapped up its 15 spring practices with Saturday’s Orange and Blue Spring Game at Memorial Stadium.
With neither of its top two running backs (Jason Ford and Troy Pollard) and its top two receivers (A.J. Jenkins and Darius Millines) available for duty, Illinois’ coaching staff turned the scrimmage into a convoluted scoring system.
Per that scoring system, the Blue offense defeated the Orange defense 26-21. In real terms, Illinois managed 1 touchdown in 14 possessions (a 1-yard TD run by fourth-string RB Ean Days on the day’s first drive). Derek Dimke missed field-goal attempts of 29 and 31 yards.
QB Nathan Scheelhaase hit 9 of 15 passes for 103 yards and 1 interception. He had a touchdown scramble called back due to a holding penalty on redshirt freshman Simon Cvijanovic. Senior cornerback Miami Thomas (remember him from the 2007 win at Ohio State?) dove to produce the game’s lone turnover.
--The quarterbacks weren’t live for the scrimmage. So when safety Steve Hull dove at Scheelhaase’s ankles and tripped him up on the day’s fourth play, Ron Zook rushed over and gave Hull several pieces of his mind. Scheelhaase, while laying out of bounds, tossed the ball at Hull in disgust.
--Unofficially, second-team quarterback Miles Osei (Prospect HS) completed 3 of 5 passes for 31 yards. Osei also scrambled quite a bit, which explains why offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said afterward: “I told Miles today, if we were playing a game today, Miles would probably have been the one playing running back. He’s one of our best runners right now.”
This suggests that incoming freshman Reilly O’Toole, who led Wheaton Warrenville South to back-to-back state titles, ought to be expecting to come in and contribute in some fashion this fall.
--When asked which guys enjoyed the best spring, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning started his list with cornerbacks Tavon Wilson and Terry Hawthorne. Then he added defensive end Justin Staples and offered some cautious kudos for linebackers Ian Thomas and Jonathan Brown and Bandit (DE/OLB mix) Michael Buchanan.
Brown, a true sophomore from Memphis, sounds like he tries Koenning’s patience now and again…but could develop into the best of the linebackers. “If I don’t choke him first,” Koenning growled jokingly. “He has become like a fourth son to me.”
THE OFFICIAL SPRING AWARDS
Most Improved Offense: WR Ryan Lankford
Most Improved Defense: LB Ashante Williams (who’s replacing Nate Bussey on the strong side)
Most Improved Walk-on: TE Eddie Viliunas
Best Effort Offense: G Hugh Thornton
Best Effort Defense: LB Houston Bates (the backup to Jonathan Brown at WLB)
Faculty Awards for Exemplary Leadership: QB Nathan Scheelhaase and NT Craig Wilson
Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence: TE/FB Zach Becker
--Redshirt freshman Austin Teitsma (Glenbard South HS) is battling with Wisdom Onyegbule to be the top backup to Akeem Spence at 3-technique tackle. I could’ve sworn Teitsma, now listed at 265 pounds, earned a tackle for loss in the scrimmage, but I’ll be darned if I can find it in my notes.
--St. Charles’ Tim Russell is Derek Dimke’s new holder, though Ron Zook suggested there’s still a getting-acquainted phase going on with Russell, Dimke and returning snapper Zak Pedersen.
--South Elgin HS alum Jake Kumerow, a walk-on who’s trying to forge his way into the rotation, caught a 16-yard pass from Miles Osei.
--St. Charles North QB Sean McGushin saw a few snaps at the end of scrimmage.
--Hersey graduate Tim Lukas, who caught 20 passes for 226 yards and 3 TDs at Div. III Carthage College last fall, has transferred to Illinois. As near as I could tell, he spent his scrimmage time on special teams. He’s listed as a junior.
--Wheaton Warrenville South alum Nick Immekus, a redshirt freshman, handled the backup kickoff duties.