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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A number of freshmen continued to draw ooh's and ahh's from the fans and media, and I would guess around 50-60 fans filtered along the sidewalk that skirts the east practice fields. We even had quite a few fans that were obviously headed to the Assembly Hall for the basketball team's scrimmage and alumni game stop and take a look at football practice on their way by.

Post-practice interviews: Coach Zook | Coach Koenning | OL Hugh Thornton

Among that group was former Illini basketball player and current Illini Sports Network hoops analyst Jerry Hester, who brought his family by practice before heading to the Hall. Jerry was one of a whole host of former Illini basketball players who enjoyed a picnic lunch on Zuppke Field inside Memorial Stadium before the scrimmage and alumni game.

Interim director of athletics Terry Cole also watched the last part of practice and spoke with Coach Zook. As happy as he was to see Terry, we saw a different side of Coach Zook when his wife, Denise, brought their miniature schnauzer, Francis, out to see him. Let's just say it was easy to see that Francis was happy to see him and the feeling was mutual.

Once practice was over, the equipment and athletic training staffs sprung into action, gathering tackling dummies, blocking sleds, pylons and coolers to pack and take to Camp Rantoul. Tim Osterbur, who drives the semitrailer to all the Illini road games, also helps haul gear to Rantoul. According to assistant equipment manager John Birdsell, Tim was going to take the truck to camp Sunday morning so they could unload it and set up the practice fields throughout the day in order to be ready for Monday's afternoon practice.

While those folks are moving gear up to Rantoul tomorrow, we'll be conducting the annual Illini football media day at Memorial Stadium, which starts with Coach Zook's press conference and a team photo, then we take position group photos before sending players to a bunch of photo and interview stations. As is tradition, it looks like it will be nice and steamy tomorrow with a forecast heat index of 102 degrees according to Accuweather. It wouldn't be media day without a nice farmer's tan from our polo shirts.

If you haven't seen it yet, Bob Asmussen of the News-Gazette had a good notes package from Friday's practices. Be sure to bookmark our Training Camp page, too. And remember, all the practices in Rantoul are open to the public, so come out and get your own look at the 2011 Illini.

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