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    Tight Ends Bring Strength, Experience And Versatility To The Illini Offense
    TE Michael Hoomanawanui is QB Juice Williams' biggest passing target, but his blocking is also a key factor in Illinois' running game.

    TE Michael Hoomanawanui is QB Juice Williams' biggest passing target, but his blocking is also a key factor in Illinois' running game.

    April 10, 2009

    by Jonathan Zobrist

    With all of the weapons on the offensive side of the ball, the tight end can get overlooked at times. Not anymore. This talented group is hitting the practice field this spring focused and prepared to take the position to the next level within the offense. Senior leadership, an immense amount of talent and a new coach to guide the way make the future a bright one for Illinois' tight ends.

    For the past three seasons, senior tight end Michael Hoomanawanui has anchored the tight end position for the Fighting Illini. His unique combination of size, athleticism and catching ability has made him a favorite of senior quarterback Juice Williams, especially on third down.

    Heading into his final season with the Orange and Blue, the Bloomington, Ill., native has taken it upon himself to make sure the tight ends are improving every time they hit the field.

    "Having Michael in front of me is probably the best thing I could have happen," sophomore and fellow tight end Hubie Graham said. "I learn every day from watching and working along side of him. He really makes the entire unit better."

    So far in spring practices, Graham has stood out as the heir apparent to Hoomanawanui. He will be a significant treat in two tight end formations as will redshirt-freshman London Davis.

    "There is no doubt we have a talented group of young men at the tight end position," new offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Mike Schultz said. "This is the time of year to improve and they are working extremely hard to make sure that happens."

    Steering the talented group to success has been an important goal for Schultz since his arrival. Having the offensive coordinator also teach has some obvious benefits for the tight ends.

    "I work with them every day, so I know what they can do and in what situations they will be most effective," Schultz said. "Getting them in positions to succeed and help us win is the most important thing for the team."

    Schultz brings with him intensity and passion to win, which has been felt immediately.

    "He definitely has a fire to win," Hoomanawanui said. "Every day we are going hard and fast. Hard work is how you get better at anything, and we are definitely getting better."

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