August 2011 Archives

IMG_6691.JPGThe Illini had some special guests at Wednesday morning's practice. University of Illinois president Michael Hogan and new Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas were both at Memorial Stadium for team's 8:30 am workout. Both spoke to the team briefly expressing their support heading into Saturday's season-opener against Arkansas State (2:30 pm CT, Big Ten Network). The Illini have just one full practice left on Thursday and then a walk-through on Friday before kicking-off the 2011 season.

Each week the Olympic Sports Update will provide a recap of all the Fighting Illini action from the previous week (Aug. 22-28). Over the weekend, the #19 soccer team improved to 4-0 overall with a 5-0 victory over Ball State and a thrilling 2-1 overtime win against Louisville. The #8 volleyball team topped BYU, Saint Mary's and UC Santa Barbara in Provo, Utah, to win the BYU Nike Invitational.

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) released preseason regional rankings for the NCAA Division I 2011 season on Monday. The Illinois men's cross country squad was ranked fourth in the Midwest Region. The Illini, who placed fifth at the 2010 Midwest Regional, checked in only behind Minnesota (3rd), Oklahoma (2nd) and Oklahoma State (1st). The Orange and Blue will kick off the fall season with the Illini Challenge at the UI Arboretum on Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Rank School Location Conference
2010 FINAL
1 Oklahoma State Stillwater, Okla. Big 12
2 Oklahoma Norman, Okla. Big 12
3 Minnesota Minneapolis, Minn. Big Ten
4 Illinois Champaign, Ill. Big Ten
5 Tulsa Tulsa, Okla. Conference USA
6 Iowa State Ames, Iowa Big 12
7 Iowa Iowa City, Iowa Big Ten
8 South Dakota State Brookings, S.D. Summit League
9 Southern Illinois Carbondale, Ill. Missouri Valley
10 Nebraska Lincoln, Neb. Big Ten
11 Kansas Lawrence, Kan. Big 12
12 Drake Des Moines, Iowa Missouri Valley
13 Illinois Chicago Chicago, Ill. Horizon
14 North Dakota State Fargo, N.D. Summit League
15 Loyola-Chicago Chicago, Ill. Horizon

Game Week

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MS_Aerial_2008(MHJ)_0382.jpgIt's finally here...game week is upon us. The Fighting Illini open the season against Arkansas State this Saturday (2:30 pm CT, BTN) at Memorial Stadium. The game marks the first of five straight home games for Illinois, something that is unprecedented in the long history of Memorial Stadium.

The team is ready, the weather forecast looks great and the lots open bright and early at 7 am, so why not dust off that tailgating gear and get your tickets?

IMG_6456.JPGThe Fighting Illini returned to the Memorial Stadium practice fields early Monday morning for practice #19. The team spent the last two weeks about 20 miles north of campus at Camp Rantoul, closing with a scrimmage on Saturday morning.

Gala-Reception_8188.jpgThe 10th Annual Steve Stricker Illini Golf Classic kicked off the festivities with the Welcoming Gala Reception and Auction on Sunday night at the Olympia Fields Country Club. The event included a live and silent auction benefitting the Illinois men's golf program and four special guests highlighted the evening: PGA professional and Illini alum Steve Stricker, head coach Mike Small, new Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas and ESPN color commentator and former Flyin' Illini member Stephen Bardo, who served as the emcee. Be sure to check out the full PHOTO GALLERY from the event.

Illini Wrap Up Camp Rantoul with Scrimmage

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Team-huddle.jpgThe Illini wrapped up Camp Rantoul 2011 with a very competitive scrimmage on the grounds of the former Chanute Air Force Base. Both units had a number of highlight plays, with running back Jason Ford posting a nice day of work and the defensive backfield repeatedly turning heads with big hits.
IMG_6550.JPGThe Fighting Illini held a morning workout in helmets and shorts Friday at Camp Rantoul. After two weeks at the former Chanute Air Force Base, Friday marked the second-to-last practice in Rantoul before the team returns to Champaign-Urbana for the fall semester.
Thomas-at-practice.jpgOnly two practices remain at Camp Rantoul before the Fighting Illini return to campus, but the Orange and Blue are definitely getting the most out of the time they have remaining. While the team doesn't often go "live" often during practice, today was an exception during the final segment of the 11-on-11 portion of practice.

A Full Day at Camp Rantoul

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DuVernois-dive.jpgIllinois went through its final two-a-day practice on Wednesday, and after a number of practices in which the offensive unit set the tone, the Illini defense answered in both practices. The defense stymied the offense in many of the 7-on-7 and team drills throughout both workouts, drawing repeated chants of "hoo-ahhh" from the sideline, a salute that has clearly become the unit's battle cry.
The Fighting Illini held practice number 13 on Tuesday afternoon at Camp Rantoul. With just four days left before returning to campus, the intensity level of both the coaches and the players continues to climb.

Tyler Griffey: The Tours

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Griffey-Leonard-Italy.JPGIllinois junior forward has been gracious enough to blog periodically during Illinois' trip to Italy. In the second installment, Griffey recaps the first days of sight-seeing in Rome, Vatican City and Florence along with providing us a cliche photo of Meyers Leonard from Pisa.

Week Two in Rantoul Opens with Afternoon Practice

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The Illini altered the schedule on Monday as a result of Saturday's scrimmage being halted by severe weather, dropping from two practices to a single session in the afternoon. The offense continued to post eye-catching plays, with Darius Millines and Spencer Harris both making highlight-reel catches and the entire stable of running backs putting together nice runs. Not to be outdone, the defensive front seven showed good contain and the defensive backs came up with a number of broken-up passes.

With Saturday's annual Rantoul High School scrimmage cut short after just 15 minutes due to thunderstorms, the Illini took to the familiar fields of Camp Rantoul on Sunday afternoon to finish it off. The team was on the field for over two hours simulating full drives, goal line situations, coming out (from deep in own territory), red zone, third downs and two-minute drills.

Tyler Griffey: Experienced Traveler

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Illinois junior forward Tyler Griffey has been gracious enough to blog periodically during Illinois' trip to Italy. In this first installment, Griffey goes over what it takes to be a successful international traveler.
IMG_6597.JPGThe first scrimmage of the fall for the Fighting Illini was cut short after just 15 minutes and two drives due to lightning and heavy rain at Rantoul High School's Bill Walsh Field on Saturday night. The Illini will finish the scrimmage on Sunday at 3 pm at Camp Rantoul. 

Illini Ready for Rantoul Scrimmage

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In the last regular day of practice of Camp Rantoul's first week, the Fighting Illini switched the schedule a bit, doing most of their team scrimmage work in the middle of practice and finishing with two-minute situations and special teams. The practice had good energy and enthusiasm on both sides, with the offense and defense each making their share of big plays.

Ryan Lankford highlighted the offensive performance with a diving catch at the goal line to finish the team portion but Terry Hawthorne jumped an out route in the two-minute drill for a pick-six.

Illini in Rome

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Hello, this is Derrick Burson, Associate Sports Information Director, writing to you from the Gran Cafe Roma here in Italy. The Fighting Illini basketball team arrived in Rome following 21 hours of travel. We left campus on Wednesday at 11:30 am and arrived at Chicago O'Hare Airport at 2 o'clock for our 4:30 departure. An eight-hour flight on a Lufthansa Airbus 333 brought us to Dusseldorf, Germany, where we arrived at 7:30 am local time Thursday. To help adjust to the time change, we were encouraged to sleep as much as possible on the flight. Some were successful and some, like myself, tried countless times to fall asleep with little success. But I did enjoy two movies and learned more than I thought possible about lions and their quest for power and control of the Kenyan wildlife reserves thanks to a National Geographic documentary.


Camp Rantoul Rolls On

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IMG_6507.JPGThe Illini held practice No. 8 Thursday afternoon at Camp Rantoul. Fans were treated to a spectacular touchdown pass from Nathan Scheelhaase to Anthony Williams in the back corner of the end zone during 7-on-7 drills. Then during the live, short yardage situations Jason Ford had a long touchdown run and freshman running back Donovonn Young had several nice runs, including a first down run where he broke several tackles and carried a defender across the first down line. After he finally did go down, he got up to helmet slaps and high fives from his offensive teammates.

Illini Go Live Under the Lights

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IMG_20110810_201016.jpgThe Fighting Illini battled through the first two-a-day practice of Camp Rantoul on Wednesday but were aided by unseasonably cool temperatures that stayed below 80 degrees. There was a good deal of physical action during the 9-on-7 and team periods, including the first live tackling of training camp during the 9-on-7 session.

IMG_6546.JPGTuesday Photo Gallery

After four practices in shorts and shells, the Fighting Illini finally got to do some hitting on Tuesday at Camp Rantoul. Practice No. 5 marked the first fall workout in full pads and, as expected, the Illini were ready for some contact in the always intense Oklahoma Drill.

The Illini held practice number four on Monday afternoon at Camp Rantoul. After three days of split squad workouts at the Memorial Stadium practice fields, the Illini kicked off their 13th year at Camp Rantoul with their first full squad practice.

It was clear that the intensity picked up on Monday, and it figures to go even higher on Tuesday as the Illini will strap on full pads for the first time this fall. Be on the lookout for the always entertaining Oklahoma Drill video tomorrow night. 

Off to Rantoul

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The Illini had the day off from practice today, but still had plenty going on. As of 5 p.m. this evening, everyone on the training camp roster is checked into the Quarters Inn and Suites in Rantoul. But before heading to Camp Rantoul, the team went through the media rounds at Memorial Stadium.


Illini Wrap Up Split-Squad Practices

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Despite the elevated humidity levels compared to the last two days, the Illini finished the final day of split-squad practices with good energy. The Orange squad went first on Saturday, with the Blue team wrapping up the day.

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Day 2 of Training Camp

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The Illini continued to enjoy the slight break in the heat and humidity on day two of training camp, but you couldn't tell by looking at the players and coaches afterward. They were all dripping with sweat after the intense, three-and-a-half hour split-squad practice. The coaches continued to emphasize the benefit of the split-squad approach, which gives all the players more repetitions, especially the freshmen.

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Here we go...

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After what's seemed like weeks of buildup, the Fighting Illini finally returned the practice field today, beginning preparations for the 2011 season. The team was split into two groups, the orange and blue, so that the young players can get more hands-on instruction. While that certainly helps them learn the ropes faster, it does make for a long day for the coaches and support staff, who are on the field and out in the heat for four-plus hours. By all accounts, day one was a success. It's clear that the team worked hard in the off-season and that they're ready to go this fall.


And So It Begins...

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While last week's Big Ten Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon may have signaled that the 2011 season was right around the corner, nothing hammers that point home more than the day players report to preseason camp. Today was that day for the Illini as they reported to Memorial Stadium for a day of check-in procedures.