Recently in Ben Taylor Category

Illini Great Dick Butkus on Tuesday's BTN Live

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Former Illini and Chicago Bear great Dick Butkus appeared on the Big Ten Network's BTN Live program on Tuesday. Butkus also will be appearing at a luncheon on Thursday and will be a part of the coin toss at Saturday's Chicago Homecoming game between Illinois and No. 19 Washington at Soldier Field.

Training Camp Day 18 Notes & Links

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practice 8-22-13.JPGPost-Practice Interviews: Beckman | Barr | Cajuste

Thursday was move-in day for thousands of University of Illinois students, but the Illini football team continued to prepare for its season-opener against Southern Illinois. With only nine days until kickoff, Illinois has fully moved into game-week style practices, fine-tuning its game plan for the Salukis.

Training Camp Day 17: Almost Game Week

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Post-Practice Interviews: Beckman | Cubit | Lankford

Illinois moved to the grass practice fields on the east side of Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, as temperatures rose to the mid-80s. The team continued to install and fine-tune the Southern Illinois game plan in a workout that lasted nearly two hours.

Training Camp Day 16: Back in Champaign

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Training Camp Central

Tuesday videos: Beckman | Banks | Cubit | Kynard

After eight days in Rantoul, the Illini returned to Champaign Tuesday for the remainder of training camp. They conducted a final set of special teams and position meetings at Camp Rantoul before busing back to campus and treating the day's practice as an 11 a.m. game.

Training Camp Day 9 Notes & Links

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Beckman Post-Practice Interview | Training Camp Central

Following Monday's double practice, which included a scrimmage, Illinois had a single afternoon session on Tuesday. The team once again worked on special teams for a good portion of the early segment of practice before splitting up into individual position drills. Then they came back together for the team period.

Training Camp Day 8: First Day in Rantoul

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Photo Gallery | Training Camp Central

Interviews: Beckman AM | Beckman PM | OC Cubit | RB Young

After moving to Camp Rantoul late Sunday, the Illini hit the practice fields off U.S. Route 45 at 9 a.m. Monday. Illinois worked extensively on special teams fundamentals for the first portion of practice, then moved into individual drills, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and team sections. 

Training Camp Day 7: Media & Fan Appreciation Day

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Illinois had its first day without practice during fall camp on Sunday, but they didn't have a complete day off. Coaches and players took part in media day activities and got to meet and mingle with Illini fans during the annual Fan Appreciation Day festivities.

Training Camp Day 3 Links & Notes

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Training Camp Central | Buy 2013 Football Tickets

Post-Practice Interviews: 

Coach Beckman | DC Banks | OL Coach Ricker | LB Monheim

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.

Big Ten Media Days: Day 1

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Beckman Press Conference: Video | Transcript

Player Interviews: Scheelhaase | Kynard | Lewis

PhotosIllini Football Twitter | Illini Athletics Instagram

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.

Illini Visit Stratton Elementary

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Playing-ball-1.jpgPhoto Gallery | Ivory Crawford Interview

Members of the Fighting Illini women's basketball team visited Stratton elementary school in Champaign on Thursday morning. After a great welcome from the students as the Illini players were introduced, each player chose a student to shoot a few hoops with, then the kids showed off their vocal cords with a great back-and-forth I-L-L I-N-I chant. 

Illini Open Fall Practice with Familiar Faces

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Tuesday Interviews: Coach Hartleb | Kevin Johnson

The Fighting Illini opened 2012 fall practice Tuesday under sweltering conditions but with many familiar faces. Illinois welcomes back 17 letter winners, including seven starters in the field and all three pitchers who formed the weekend rotation over the last half of the 2012 Big Ten season.

Finishing Touches Being Put on Memorial Stadium

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Wednesday Interviews: Coach Beckman | Coach Banks

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As the countdown to Saturday's season-opener against Western Michigan continues to dwindle, the Illini worked out on the Memorial Stadium turf once again on Wednesday. After practice wrapped up, workers completed the installation of the bowl banners on the barriers separating the stands from the field, including the Rose Bowl banner.

Illini Continue Preparations for Season-Opener

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Monday Interviews: Coach Beckman Press Conference | QB Nathan Scheelhaase | DT Akeem Spence

Tuesday Interviews: Coach Beatty | Coach Gonzales

The Illini continued to prepare for the season-opener against Western Michigan on Tuesday, with another morning practice. Once the team finished working out on Zuppke Field at Memorial Stadium, work crews continued to install more signage recognizing Illinois' all-time bowl appearances and an Illinois. Our State. Our Team sign atop the student section in the north end zone seating area.

11th Annual Steve Stricker Outing a Success

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Stricker and Small.jpgInterviews: Steve Stricker | Luke Guthrie

The Fighting Illini men's golf program hosted the 11th annual Steve Stricker Illini Classic in Champaign-Urbana on Sunday and Monday with more than 300 golf program supporters attending the gala reception and auction at the iHotel and Conference Center on Sunday and over 100 people participated in morning and afternoon tournaments at Stone Creek Golf Club in Urbana on Monday.  Headliner Steve Stricker also hosted his annual clinic on the range at Stone Creek on Monday afternoon.

Illini Return to Practice Field After Off-Day

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Training Camp Central

Post Practice Interviews: Coach Beckman | QB Nathan Scheelhaase | RB Josh Ferguson

After a day off on Sunday to allow players to move into their campus housing, the Illini returned to action on the grass fields to the east of Memorial Stadium for a practice in shoulder pads and shorts. Illinois continued to install its schemes and began to prepare for its season-opening opponent, Western Michigan.

Illini Go Through Lone Two-A-Day in Rantoul

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photo 4.JPGPractices 6 & 7: Saturday

The Illini went through the only two-a-day practice of Camp Rantoul on Saturday and enjoyed an unseasonably cool day. 

Camp Rantoul: Day 4

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Practice 4: Thursday Morning

Training Camp Central

Interviews: Coach Beckman | QB Nathan Scheelhaase

After three days of split practices as the Orange and Blue squads, the Illini returned to working as a single unit on Thursday. That gave the team a better opportunity to work on some special teams units as well as special teams fundamentals, such as how to shed blockers as a kickoff coverage player or what technique to use as a lineman on a field goal.

Camp Rantoul: Day 3

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Practice 3A: Wednesday Morning

Training Camp Central

AM Interviews: QB Nathan Scheelhaase | QB Miles Osei

The team awoke Wednesday morning to news of a water main break that led to a boil order in the part of Rantoul around the former Chanute Air Force Base - the exact location where the Illini hold Camp Rantoul. But the team's support staff quickly mobilized, with director of football operations Tim Knox working with the athletic training staff to make sure practice could go on as normal. Assistant athletic trainer Chris Brown drove back to Champaign, filled up as many five-gallon coolers as the team would need for the morning practice and returned to Rantoul in time for the Blue team's session.

Camp Rantoul: Day 2

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Training Camp Central

Practice 2A: Tuesday Morning

AM Interviews: FB Zach Becker | TE Matt LaCosse

The same group the wrapped up day one of Camp Rantoul started day two, as the Orange team worked out Tuesday morning. They went through a similar routine as on Monday, with individual position drills, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. 

Camp Rantoul: Day 1

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Practice 1A: Monday Morning

Training Camp Central

Interviews: Coach Beckman | Nathan Scheelhaase | Michael Buchanan

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. 

Big Ten Football Kickoff: Day 1

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The two days that signal the unofficial end of summer for many of us - Big Ten media days and kickoff luncheon - started Thursday at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and Convention Center in Chicago. The entire first day is centered around press conferences, interviews and photo shoots, with Friday holding a few more interviews, an autograph hour for fans and the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon.

Illini Deliver Food, Funds to Harrisburg

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After the Illini beat Northern Illinois 7-2 on Saturday, they returned to their hotel, showered and changed into their travel sweats and re-boarded the bus to head to Harrisburg to deliver the food and funds that were donated during Wednesday's fundraiser. Once the Peoria Charter bus turned into the Arrowhead Shopping Center and headed for the building that formerly housed the Mad Pricer grocery store, a group of people including Harrisburg mayor Eric Gregg, other community leaders and the Harrisburg High School baseball team came into view. 


Breaking Down the Schedule

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After overcoming a 12-21 start to win a share of the 2011 Big Ten regular-season championship, sweep through the Big Ten Tournament and advance to the championship game of the NCAA Fullerton Regional last season, the Illini head into 2012 with a new blend of talent and a much more difficult schedule. While Coach Hartleb anticipated last year's slate to result in a solid Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) rating, many non-conference foes underachieved and Illinois ended with a ranking of 118 in one of the key tools that the NCAA selection committee uses.

Illini at the Fight Hunger Bowl: Day 4

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Illini Visit St. Anthony's Dining Room
Piano Jam Session at St. Anthony's Dining Room
Kitchen Singing at St. Anthony's Dining Room
Interim HC Vic Koenning Pep Rally Interview
Day 4 Photo Gallery

In case we had missed the meaning of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl prior to today, the Fighting Illini players and staff were confronted with it head-on when they spent the morning serving the guests of St. Anthony's Dining Room. One in five San Franciscans experience hunger and as many as one in two are hungry in the Tenderloin, the area around St. Anthony's Foundation.

Illini at the Fight Hunger Bowl: Day 3

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Interim HC Vic Koenning Post-Practice Interview
QB Nathan Scheelhaase Kickoff Luncheon Interview
Day 3 Photo Gallery
Fighting Illini Bowl Central

After we enjoyed a Wednesday that was somewhat light on official Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl activities, Thursday's schedule was full. The Illini went through their final practice at Laney College before heading to the Westin St. Francis hotel for the KFHB Kickoff Luncheon. We had a few free hours in the afternoon and in the evening, the team headed to Players Sports Grill and Arcade on Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf.

Illini at the Fight Hunger Bowl: Day 2

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Interim head coach Vic Koenning Post-Practice Interview
LB Trulon Henry Post-Practice Interview
RB Donovonn Young Post-Practice Interview
Day 2 Photo Gallery

Illinois' second day in San Francisco was less scripted than the first, fitting in with the laid-back local vibe. After a morning practice, the team and staff were able to enjoy a free afternoon and evening, seeing the sights or just relaxing and enjoying the beautiful weather. But before we get to the rundown of day two, be sure to check out the great recap of the first night's trip to Alcatraz by our Illini Productions crew (Alcatraz trip | Player Reaction to Alcatraz).

Illini at the Fight Hunger Bowl: Day 1

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Interim HC Vic Koenning Press Conference
Jerry Rice & Ronnie Lott Press Conference
Day 1 Photo Gallery

The Illini had a full schedule on their first day in San Francisco with a morning practice, a press conference at AT&T Park in the afternoon and a sightseeing trip to Alcatraz Island, home to the infamous former federal prison. It was a great way to kick off the team's stay in the City by the Bay leading up to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31.

Matt Isenberg Fundraiser Update

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After Illinois' 41-20 victory over Indiana last Saturday, former Illini Matt Isenberg and his family celebrated a mammoth win in his ongoing rehabilitation and recovery from multiple brain hemorrhages that left him with Wernicke's Aphasia.

Matt Isenberg Fundraiser & Game-Watch Saturday

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On August 16, while driving home from work, former Illinois offensive lineman Matt Isenberg suffered multiple brain hemorrhages. Amazingly, he drove himself to the emergency department at Loyola University Hospital and received treatment, which included two craniotomies because of bleeding in both sides of his brain. A craniotomy is a procedure where a piece of skull is removed to relieve the pressure caused by the swelling of the brain.

Scout Day Draws a Crowd

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Illinois hosted its annual Scout Day on Wednesday, bringing approximately 20-25 scouts from Major League teams to Illinois Field. The event is one of the high points of fall practice, giving the Illini players exposure to these professional scouts after the summer season and before the spring.

Illini in Midst of Fall Practice

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Tuesday Interviews: CF Willie Argo | 3B Brandon Hohl

The Fighting Illini opened fall practice on Sept. 5 and are approximately halfway through their fall season after Tuesday's practice. Illinois has begun the process of integrating 11 newcomers into the remainder of last season's team that won the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships, and advanced to the title game of the NCAA Fullerton Regional.

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.
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.

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.

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 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.

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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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.

Summer's Over: Big Ten Media Day 1

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Day one of the Big Ten Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon started early - 5 a.m. to be exact. I made it to the Varsity Room parking lot a few minutes before 6:30 and just after I pulled the Google Maps directions (no GPS on my phone for me; I'm one of the last people I know who is holding out on the smartphone craze.) out of my laptop case, Tavon Wilson and A.J. Jenkins both walked up to the car.