Illini Set to Open Spring Practices

Tim Beckman and the Illini begin Spring practices on March 7.
Tim Beckman and the Illini begin Spring practices on March 7.

March 7, 2012

2012 Illinois Spring Football Notes | Beckman Talks Spring Ball

Illinois football coach Tim Beckman and the Fighting Illini begin spring football practices on Wednesday, March 7, marking the first of 15 spring workouts for the Fighting Illini. Spring practices culminate in the annual Orange and Blue Spring Game April 14 at Memorial Stadium. Admission and parking for the Spring Game are free. Parking will be available in the lots surrounding Memorial Stadium and the Assembly Hall.

Spring practices are closed to the public, with the exceptioin of the Spring Game. Practices will be held at either the East Practice Fields, inside Memorial Stadium or in the Iwrin Indoor Practice Facility depending on the weather.

2012 Spring Football Practice Schedule

Wed., March 7	Practice #1 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Fri., March 9  	Practice #2 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Sat., March 10  Practice #3 (Noon-2 pm)
Mon., March 12  Practice #4 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Wed., March 14  Practice #5 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Fri., March 16  Practice #6 (5:45-7:45 pm)
March 17-25	University of Illinois Spring Break
Mon., March 26  Practice #7 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Wed., March 28  Practice #8 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Fri., March 30  Practice #9 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Mon., April 2   Practice #10 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Wed., April 4   Practice #11 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Fri., April 6   Practice #12 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Mon., April 9   Practice #13 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Wed., April 11  Practice #14 (5:45-7:45 pm)
Sat., April 14  Orange and Blue Spring Game (2 pm)

Tim Beckman takes over in 2012 as the 23rd head football coach at the University of Illinois. Beckman came to Illinois after three years as head coach at Toledo, where he led the Rockets to two bowl appearances and a Mid-American Conference West Division co-championship. Beckman took over for Ron Zook, who was released following the 2011 regular season after seven season at Illinois.

Beckman assembled a diverse and dynamic staff for 2012. It includes Tim Banks (defensive coordinator/safeties), Billy Gonzales (co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers), Chris Beatty (co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Luke Butkus (offensive line), Steve Clinkscale (cornerbacks), Keith Gilmore (defensive line), Alex Golesh (tight ends/specialists/recruiting Coordinator), Tim Salem (running backs/special teams) and Mike Ward (linebackers). All three coordinators come to Illinois from BCS schools - Banks from Cincinnati, Gonzales from LSU and Beatty from Vanderbilt. Golesh, Ward and Clinkscale all were on Beckman's staff at Tolodo, while Salem was at Central Florida prior to coming to Champaign-Urbana. Butkus is an Illinois alum who was working in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, while Gilmore was retained from the previous Illini staff.

Coach Beckman emphasizes competion in all aspects of the football program, whether it be on the field, in the classroom or out in the community. For winter workouts, the Illini went head-to-head in the Illinois Football Competition League (IFCL) and also went head-to-head in activities like dodgeball and bowling, as well as weekly community service activities.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Champions // 7-6 overall, 2-6 Big Ten (5th Leaders Division)
• Illinois finished the 2011 season on high note, defeating UCLA, 20-14, in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to finish with a record of 7-6. The win, combined with the 38-14 win over Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl, gave the Illini bowl victories in back-to-back years for the first time in school history.
• The Illinois defense was dominating in 2011. The Illini finished the season ranked third nationally in pass defense (162.3 ypg), fourth in tackles for loss (7.9 per game), sixth in sacks (3.2 per game), seventh on total defense (286.2 ypg) and 15th in scoring defense (19.6 ppg).
• Consensus All-American Whitney Mercilus led the nation in sacks (16.0), sacks per game (1.23) and forced fumbles (9). The nine forced fumbles were a Big Ten single-season record and the second-most in NCAA history, just one shy of the national record of 10.
• Mercilus' 16 sacks tied Simeon Rice's school record from 1994 and his 22.5 tackles for loss tied for the third-most in school history, just behind the UI mark of 23 shared by Rice (1994) and Mike Polosky (1991).
• Mercilus won the Hendricks Award as the nation's top DE, becoming Illinois' first major national award winner since 1995, and was named the College Football Performance Awards National Defensive Player of the Year. He also was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the nation's top defensive player.
• Mercilus was named a first-team All-American by nine different publications, including the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, American Football Coaches Association and Walter Camp. He is Illinois' first consensus All-American since linebacker J Leman in 2007.
• Biletnikoff Award semifinalist A.J. Jenkins led the Big Ten in receptions (90) and ranked among the nation's elite in both receiving yards per game (14th, 98.2) and receptions per game (16th, 6.9).
• Sophomore LB Jonathan Brown was a monster during the second half of the season, totaling 78 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 4.0 sacks, two PBUs, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and three hurries in the final seven games of 2011. He ranked sixth in the nation and second in the Big Ten in TFLs per game (1.63).