Practice 1A: Monday Morning
The Illini opened the 2012 version of Camp Rantoul Monday morning, with the first session of a split-squad practice on the grounds of the former Chanute Air Force Base. The morning session was for the "Blue" team, which consisted of first-stringers and fourth-stringers. The "Orange" squad will be the second- and third-string players and they will practice at 4:45 p.m. Monday.
The team went through a quick, spirited practice that lasted about 1:15 - utilizing head coach Tim Beckman's philosophy of short, focused, intense practices - and was able to finish before the temperature even broke 80 on one of the coolest days of the summer. All of the players then headed for the cold tubs after shedding their equipment for a quick soak in ice-cold water, a therapy that will help aid recovery.
The two newest additions to the Illini team, senior safety/return specialist Tommy Davis and redshirt-freshman offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki, were with the Blue squad and went through their first practice as an Illinois football player.
One other very noticeable difference in the method of practice was the use of music during the team portion of practice. As the Illini were running 7-on-7 drills and full-team plays, a pair of speakers on the west sideline blared fast-paced music across the field to help the players get used to communicating in noisy conditions. And fans had to bring their own seating for the first practice because the metal bleachers that typically sit along the east sideline were being repaired. They should be in place for Monday afternoon's practice or sometime on Tuesday.
Practice 1B: Monday Afternoon
The afternoon session was very similar to the morning practice, just with the No. 2's and No. 3's on the depth chart getting all the action. The defense stuck out during the 11-on-11 drills near the end of the practice, with Eaton Spence, Jevaris Little and Ta'Jarvis Fuller all intercepting passes and returning them for touchdowns.
From a media standpoint, day one of Camp Rantoul was very busy, with most of our local media members showing up to one or both of the practices. Between the two sessions, we had 18 players interviewed and four coaches, with Coach Beckman and Coach Gonzales doing live interviews with WCIA-3 and WICD-15 TV stations during the 6 o'clock news. It's great to see the interest in Illinois football through our sizable media contingent.
For fans of the Camp Rantoul series that we've done in the past, we'll be doing some slightly different video pieces this year. But rest assured that former Illini and creative specialist Frank Lenti Jr., will continue to give you a great look inside the Illini football program. His first piece is tentatively scheduled to run Wednesday.
With today in the books, we look forward to more of the same on Tuesday, but with the squads switching time slots. The Orange team will practice in the morning, starting at 9 a.m., and the Blue will go at 4:45 p.m. Remember, Camp Rantoul is free and open to the public. And the bleachers were back in place by the afternoon session on Monday, so there's even somewhere to sit! We hope to see a lot of Illini fans during Camp Rantoul, so come check it out.