Illinois scrimmaged for nearly 2 hours during Saturday's practice session, the seventh of the spring.
April 10, 2010
The University of Illinois football team had its second scrimmage of the spring season on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. The scrimmage consisted of coming out, red zone and two minute drills, as well as longer drives with both the first and second teams. Additionally, the quarterbacks participated in full contact for the first time this spring, as they shed their protective red jerseys for the white ones being sported by the rest of the offense.
From the get go, the Illini offense was clicking on all cylinders. In the coming out drill, redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase got things rolling with a 40-yard run down the right sideline.
First-year Illini offensive coordinator Paul Petrino has been impressed with Scheelhasse's mobility so far.
"I definitely think it's one of his biggest strengths," Petrino said of Scheelhasse's running ability. "He's got the skill to run around and make plays out there, and it's good to see him use it."
As the scrimmage moved on to extensive drives, the Illini's running game broke out. Junior tailback Mikel LeShoure kicked things off with a 65 yard run, followed by a two-yard touchdown prance two-plays later. Junior running back Troy Pollard followed up Leshoure's touchdown with a four-yarder of his own on the next drive. Later in the scrimmage, redshirt freshman Bud Golden head a nifty a 23-yard run. Near the end of the scrimmage, Leshoure capped things off when he marched in from 20 yards out for a touchdown on the first play of a red zone drives.
"It always feels good to break out a long run because it means that everyone is doing their part," Leshoure said. "The line and the wide receivers have to hold their blocks for that to happen, and it's nice to see us making progress in that area."
Illinois' passing game also took some major strides in the scrimmage. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Charest connected with junior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins for a 50-yard pass on a perfectly thrown fade route down the left sideline early in the drives portion. Later, Charest hit junior fullback Zach Becker for 21 yards, and then senior Eddie McGee for a 40-yard pass play. Scheelhaase complemented his strong day on the ground with strikes of 22 and 30 yards to A.J. Jenkins and Zach Becker, respectively. Becker's catch went for a TD.
"It felt great to move the ball on our defense today," Jenkins said. "We had some nice runs after the catch, and we feel like we're getting better every day."
"We made some big strides today and we spread the ball really well," Petrino said. "It was definitely an improvement from last weekend. We just have to keep going to work every day and continue to battle hard."
While the offense showed plenty of fireworks, the defense did come up with some big plays on the afternoon. There was a lot of intensity on both sides of ball and plenty of big hits by the defense. Senior linebacker Nate Bussey tagged Scheelhaase for a big loss with a sack at the beginning of the first extensive drive. Later, junior defensive back Tavon Wilson intercepted a Scheelhaase pass during the two minute drill workout.
Saturday's session was the seventh of 14 practices leading up to the April 24 Spring Game (1 pm). The Illini's next spring session will be on Tuesday evening.