The Fighting Illini passed the halfway point of the four split practices on a warmer, humid Wednesday. After two days of wearing only helmets, the team strapped on shoulder pads for the first time on Wednesday. The Orange team had the quick turnaround after practicing on Tuesday evening, while Blue waited until Wednesday afternoon. Thursday will be the last day of the split practices and the team will go in full pads for the first time on Friday morning.
Fighting Illini football coach Tim Beckman made the rounds at ESPN Headquarters on Thursday, doing nine interviews in three hours as part of the Big Ten "car wash" in Bristol, Conn, over the last two days.
The day started off with a hitch, as dense fog at Champaign's Willard Airport pushed our flight to Hartford back an hour. After landing and making the short trip from Hartford to Bristol, Coach Beckman, his wife Kim and daughter Lindsay, arrived at ESPN at 11:45, about 45 minutes after the scheduled start of the "car wash" schedule. That meant we had some catching up to do.
After eight hours of interviews and photo shoots on Wednesday, the Fighting Illini were back it bright and early on Thursday for the second and final day of Big Ten Football Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon at the Hilton Chicago.
Head Coach Tim Beckman and seniors Tim Kynard, Corey Lewis and Nathan Scheelhaase started things off with breakfast at 7:30 before heading to media roundtable interviews for two hours. This is probably the toughest part for the players, as they just sit in the same seat for two straight hours answering the same questions over and over, the same ones they answered over and over to the TV networks the day before. As expected, the Illini had a steady stream of media attention throughout the session and, as expected, they handled themselves well.
The unofficial end to summer, Big Ten Football Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon, began Wednesday at the Hilton Chicago. Over 500 media were credentialed for the two-day event, where the college football world gathered to get an early read on one of the nation's top conferences.