Illini Scrimmage Shows Big-Play Ability

Illinois Spring Practice
Illinois Spring Practice

April 3, 2010

The University of Illinois football team had its first scrimmage of the spring season on Saturday, working out on the Memorial Stadium playing surface despite the steady rain. The Illini went live for 45 minutes, ending its two-hour plus practice. It was just the second day for the squad in full pads. The scrimmage included extensive drives with both the first and second teams, followed by red zone work.

"Today was good," said head coach Ron Zook. "When we start going live like that it forces them to get better quicker. We are probably right on schedule."

The defense was able to force turnovers early in the scrimmage, two interceptions that led to touchdowns. Junior safety Supo Sanni picked off a pass to end the second full drive, with help of heavy pressure and near sack by sophomore bandit Michael Buchanan. Buchanan then finished off the quarterback when the following play was whistled for a sack.

"As soon as the coaches came I started learning this bandit position," said Buchanan. "I think it fits my style and I am ready to take it on. When I think of the bandit, I think of a hybrid linebacker in a 3-4 offense. Sometimes I line up with my hand down and sometimes I am lined up with the linebackers and drop back into coverage."

The next interception had sophomore corner Terry Hawthorne picking right up where he left off in 2009. He jumped in front of pass at the offense's 40-yardline and never looked back for the touchdown.

"We have wanted to bang each other up since we started and now we are getting a chance to hit with the pads on," said Hawthorne. "I am feeling a whole lot more comfortable on defense, because when I first moved over last fall it was right before the season and I didn't have a chance to get fully committed."

A little bit later the offense began hitting a stride and providing some big-yardage plays when redshirt-freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase scrambled and broke free for an untouched touchdown run of 45 yards. Junior fullback Zach Becker also took a swing pass 50 yards down the east sideline before being tackled out of bounds at the five yard line.

"I thought the quarterbacks did some things well today, but there are definitely a lot to improve on," said first-year Illini offensive coordinator Paul Petrino. "We're putting o log on (quarterbacks) plate. They are going to see more this spring than they could ever possibly see during the season. They're doing a pretty good job (implementing the offense), if we can just keep improving. For the most part, most of their checks were good."

The Illini will resume spring workouts on Tues., April 6 at 5 p.m. with its fifth session of the season. On April 8, Illinois will be host to the annual Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Clinic, which brings over 1,000 coaches to the Champaign-Urbana area. The team will also hold practices on that Thursday and on Sat., April 10 as well.

Saturday, April 3 Post-Practice Interviews

  • Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning | Watch
  • DL/LB Michael Buchanan | Watch
  • RB Mikel LeShoure | Watch
  • Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino | Watch
  • QB Nathan Scheelhaase | Watch
  • Head Coach Ron Zook | Watch