Illini Set to Begin Spring Practice on Tuesday

Friday and Saturday spring practices will be open to the public.
Friday and Saturday spring practices will be open to the public.

March 4, 2013

2013 Illinois Spring Football Notes | Beckman Previews Spring Ball

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).

 Practice #1 Tuesday, March 5, 3:30 p.m.
 Practice #2 Thursday, March 7, 3:30 p.m.
 Practice #3 Saturday, March 9, Noon - Open to Public
 Practice #4 Monday, March 11, 3:30 p.m.
 Practice #5 Wednesday, March 13, 3:30 p.m.
 Practice #6 Friday, March 15, 5:30 p.m. - Open to Public
 Practice #7 Monday, March 25, 3:30 p.m.
 Practice #8 Wednesday, March 27, 3:30 p.m.
 Practice #9 Friday, March 29, 5:30 p.m. (Gately Stadium, Chicago, Ill. - Open to Public)
 Practice #10 Monday, April 1, 3:30 p.m.
 Practice #11 Wednesday, April 3, 3:30 p.m.
 Practice #12 Friday, April 5, 5:30 p.m. (IHSFCA Coaches Clinic - Open to Public)
 Practice #13 Monday, April 8, 3:30 p.m.
 Practice #14 Wednesday, April 10, 3:30 p.m.
 Practice #15 Friday, April 12, 8 p.m. (Spring Game presented by Fighting Illini Energy)
All dates and times subject to change

New Faces
Ten early enrollees - five mid-year high school graduates and five junior college transfers - are on campus and will participate in spring practices, hoping to get a jump on playing time for the fall. The early high school grads are defensive backs Dillan Cazley and Darius Mosely and offensive linemen Jesse Chadwell, Christian Dilauro and Austin Schmidt. The junior college transfers are wide receiver Martize Barr, defensive tackle Abe Cajuste, star Eric Finney, offensive lineman Dallas Hinkhouse and safety Zane Petty.

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
When the 2013 season kicks off, Fighting Illini fans will see a new Daktronics video display at Memorial Stadium. The south end zone is set to receive a new HD video display measuring 36 feet tall by 96 feet wide. Directly below the main video display, a new custom football scoreboard will be installed to show the score, time outs left, down and distance, game time remaining, and quarter information. An identical scoreboard (without video display) will be installed above the north end zone seats. In addition, a new supplemental ribbon display will be installed below the custom football scoreboard that will measure over 50 feet wide. The new video board will not be installed in time for the Spring Game on April 12, but will be ready for the 2013 season.

Illini to play at Soldier Field Sept. 14
On Aug. 7, 2012, Illinois Athletics Director Mike Thomas announced that the Fighting Illini will play the Washington Huskies at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sept. 14, 2013. The game will mark Illinois' second game at the historic home of the Chicago Bears. Illinois' only other game at Soldier Field was against current Pac-12 member Washington State on Sept. 1, 1994, a 10-9 victory for the Cougars. The 2013 contest against Washington will be Illinois' first in the city of Chicago since the 48-27 victory over Northwestern at Wrigley Field on Nov. 20, 2010. Ticket information for Illinois-Washington game at Soldier Field will be available in March.

Getting it Done in the Classroom
The football team once again excelled in the classroom during the 2012 fall semester, with 42 players earning at least a 3.0 grade-point average, three more than in Spring 2012 and six more than last fall. As a team, the Illini posted a 2.70 cumulative GPA, up from a 2.60 last fall and on par with the 2.71 posted in spring 2012. In addition, 18 Fighting Illini earned Academic All-Big Ten status in the fall.

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
Four former Illinois players showcased their talents at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, Feb. 23-26 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Illini defensive end Michael Buchanan, defensive back Terry Hawthorne, defensive tackle Akeem Spence and offensive lineman Hugh Thornton all had strong performances in front of hundreds of NFL scouts, coaches and general managers in preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, which will take place April 25-27 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Illinois has had 15 players drafted in the last five years, including five first round picks, the most in the most by a Big Ten school during that time.

2012 Season In Review
• Illinois finished the 2012 season 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the Big Ten, dropping their last nine games of the season after starting 2-1.

• 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.

• Six true-freshmen made their Illini debuts in 2012: RB Dami Ayoola, DB V'Angelo Bentley, WR Justin Hardee, LB Mason Monheim, DT Teko Powell and LB Mike Svetina all have played in 2012.

• 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.