Illini Set to Begin Spring Practice on Tuesday
March 4, 2013
Illinois football coach Tim Beckman and the Fighting Illini begin spring football practices on Tuesday, March 5, marking the first of 15 spring workouts for the Fighting Illini. Spring practices culminate in the annual Orange and Blue Spring Game April 12 under the lights at Memorial Stadium, which will be televised live on the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m. CT. Admission and parking for the Spring Game are free. Parking will be available in the lots surrounding Memorial Stadium and the Assembly Hall.
In addition to the Spring Game, four practices will be open to the public: March 9, 15, 29, and April 5. The remaining practices are closed to the public. All practices in Champaign will be held at either the East Practice Fields, inside Memorial Stadium or in the Iwrin Indoor Practice Facility depending on the weather. The March 29 practice will be at Chicago's Gately Stadium (810 E. 103rd Street).
In additon to the new faces on the field, five new assistant coaches have joined Tim Beckman's staff for the 2013 season. Former Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit will take over as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. A pair of former Illini players, Mike Bellamy (wide receivers) and Greg Colby (defensive line), returned to their alma mater as coaches. Also joining the staff are Jim Bridge (offensive line), most recently at North Carolina State, and Al Seamonson (outside linebackers), most recently at Central Florida.
New Scoreboard on the Way
Illini to play at Soldier Field Sept. 14
Getting it Done in the Classroom
Five Fighting Illini football student-athletes graduated at the end of the fall 2012 semester: fullback Zach Becker (kinesiology), defensive back Jack Ramsey (communication), quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (communication), defensive tackle Akeem Spence (communication) and tight end Eddie Viliunas (communication). Both Scheelhaase and Spence completed their degrees in three-and-a-half years and have a year of football eligibility remaining. Scheelhaase has started graduate school in recreation, sport and tourism this spring, while Spence has declared for the 2013 NFL Draft, passing up his final year on the football field with an Illinois degree in hand.
Preparing for the Draft
2012 Season In Review
Senior defensive end Michael Buchanan and senior offensive tackle Hugh Thornton were both named to the All-Big Ten second team by conference coaches, while four others were honorable mention selections by the media and coach panels. Junior defensive tackle Akeem Spence was an honorable mention honoree by the coaches, while Buchanan, Thornton, junior linebacker Jonathan Brown, senior cornerback Terry Hawthorne, senior center Graham Pocic and Spence were all honorable mention selections by the media. Junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was Illinois' honoree for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award for the second straight year.
True-freshman LB Mason Monheim was named a second-team freshman All-American by Phil Steele after a stellar first season for the Orange and Blue. Monheim started the final 10 games of the season and led Illinois with 86 tackles on the season, the most among all Big Ten freshmen by a wide margin. Monheim ranked 15th in the conference in tackles per game (7.2), while no other B1G freshman was in the top 50. He also added 6.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception, one pass breakup and recovered one fumble during his rookie campaign. In eight Big Ten games, Monheim averaged 8.6 tackles per game to rank ninth overall. He also was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice.
Junior QB Nathan Scheelhaase moved up several Illinois career lists in 2012. The three-year starter will enter 2013 ranked fifth on the UI career in total offense list (7,091 yards), sixth in career passing yardage (5,296), sixth in career passing efficiency (124.5), sixth in career completions (488), eighth in career passing attempts (801) and 18th in career rushing yardage (1,795) at Illinois.
Senior OT Corey Lewis is one of the feel-good stories of 2012 for the Illini. Lewis saw his first game action since 2009 at Ohio State on Nov. 3 (25 snaps) after missing the previous two-and-half years (over 1,000 days and 34 games) recovering from five different knee surgeries. After returning against the Buckeyes, Lewis also saw plenty of action in the last three games against Minnesota, Purdue and Northwestern. The fifth-year senior, already with a bachelor's degree in communications, has petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility.
Redshirt-freshman Taylor Zalewski booted a career-long 54-yard field goal against Purdue last last season, marking the third-longest field goal in school history and the longest by an Illini since 1990, when Doug Higgins nailed a 55-yarder against Michigan State on Oct. 20, 1990. Zalewski's 54-yard FG was tied for longest in Big Ten and the ninth-longest in the nation in 2012.
Illinois led the Big Ten and ranked 23rd nationally in net punting, averaging 39.2 yards per kick. Sophomore punter Justin DuVernois averaged 41.9 yards per punt, fourth-best in the conference.
Illinois has streaks of 49 games and 134 attempts without missing a PAT, the fifth- and sixth-longest active streaks in the nation, respectively. The last time the Fighting Illini did not convert a PAT kick was on Sept. 5, 2009, against Missouri.
In all, 22 Illini played for the first time on 2012. The six true-freshman mentioned above, plus 12 redshirt-freshmen - WR Peter Bonahoom, DE Darrius Caldwell, OL Patrick Flavin, LB Zepheniah Grimes, WR Kenny Knight, OL Scott McDowell, DE Kenny Nelson, DB Nick North, DB Eaton Spence, DE John Valentine, WR Jeremey Whitlow and PK Taylor Zalewski; two sophomores - DB Nick Forzley and PK Nick Immekus; one senior - WR James Hallendorff; and one fifth-year transfer - DB Tommy Davis.