Illini Football, Beckman Have Different Perspective In Spring Season

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — As the Illinois football team begins its spring football season on Saturday, head coach Tim Beckman looks to build off of the so-called momentum from last season’s 6-7 bowl team. Though the Illini made a late-season run that would land them with a loss in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Beckman said the general feeling is a lot different this spring due to player experience.

“We had really an outstanding second half of the season.” Beckman said. “The Fighting Illini football program is back working and progressing to get the program better.”

Beckman recognized the lack of depth in his team; however, he does see a new trend of competition amongst key positions where last year the team struggled to fill. Defensively, Jihad Ward and Kenny Nelson will go at it on the line, along with Teko Powell, Joe Fotu, Jarrod Clements and Rob Bain.

Offensively, Beckman has noticed a rise in maturity level in his wide receivers.

“We’ve got guys that are back and can compete and can challenge one another,” Beckman said.

The biggest concern for the Illinois coaching staff will be injuries that have tapered the depth on the offensive line.

“When you take a team and you want to go Orange and Blue for a spring football game, and you only have 10 (offensive linemen),” Beckman said, “As a football coach, you’ve got to determine if that’s going to be a capability for us or not.”

Beckman made promising remarks regarding Chayce Crouch. The redshirt freshman will backup junior Wes Lunt at quarterback. In his second spring season, Crouch is faced with new situations that Beckman hopes will help shape him into the type of leader that comes with being a Big Ten quarterback.

What could be surprising is Crouch’s punting ability that Beckman looks forward to using as tool to keep the defense guessing.

Ryan Frain, David Reisner and Crouch with compete for the punting position. As for kicking, Reisner and Taylor Zalewski will continue to compete. Beckman is also considering walking on another kicker and another punter.

Beckman is impressed early with one of his newcomers, tight end Andrew Davis. The transfer from Iowa Western Community College has gained muscle weight and competed in team contests with the A team, which means he won all four earlier competitions with the team.

Beckman did push spring practice back a week, hoping that combined with spring break will allow some of his injured players to participate later on. Injured players include: Teko Powell (foot), Carroll Phillips (neck), Darius Mosely (sports hernia), Tyler White (knee), Ted Karras (knee) and Chris O’Connor (knee).