Illinois Training Camp Blog #1

The offensive line was the first unit to hit the field for Illinois' initial practice of the 2007 pre-season.
The offensive line was the first unit to hit the field for Illinois' initial practice of the 2007 pre-season.

Aug. 3, 2007

Friday Post-Practice Interviews:
Coach Ron Zook AUDIO
Off. Coord. Mike Locksley AUDIO
DB Justin Harrison AUDIO
OL Xavier Fulton AUDIO
RB Rashard Mendenhall AUDIO
DB Kevin Mitchell AUDIO

During this year's training camp, the Illinois Sports Information Office is going to jump on the blog bandwagon and start giving fans a little insight from our perspective.

Well, it's day one, and we are still in Champaign for the next two days while the players who took summer school classes finish final exams.

It has been a very productive first day. Much like we have done in the past, the coaches have split the squad in half, and each team practices for two-and-a-half hours. If you do the math, that means the coaches are on their feet for nearly five hours.

We began today with the first group (Orange), which featured players like Juice Williams and Rashard Mendenhall on offense and Kevin Mitchell and J Leman on defense. The real purpose of the split is to give the young guys a chance to get more reps and to use the time to do more teaching. It was something Coach Zook tried at Florida; he brought it here to Illinois, and it has been very beneficial. The two teams come together for a joint 45-minute special teams session (its really hard to practice special teams with just half of your team). The Blue group had the night session and lucked into some cooler temperatures. That session was led by guys like Justin Harrison and Chris Norwell on defense and Akim Millington and Frank Lenti on offense.

TAKING A DIFFERENT LOOK: Rahkeem Smith started this training camp at a potentially new position today--fullback. Rahkeem was a very successful running back in high school, and with the lack of depth at the position, he was willing to give the move from linebacker a chance. Nothing is set in stone, just a chance for the coaches to see how Rahkeem fits on the offensive side of the ball.

Sophomore receiver Chris James snags one from the machine before practice.

FASHION STATEMENT: As the first group left the stadium and headed down to dinner, I noticed a new fashion worn by Jeff Cumberland. He was wearing a kikepa, a Hawaiian wrap resembling a skirt (but don't call it a skirt). The garment was borrowed from fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. Michael has three kikepas and hopes to get one more so all four tight ends - including Tom Sullivan and C.J. Jackson can join in the style. This summer, Michael was able to spend two weeks visiting his family back in Hawaii.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE: Well, as we wrap up the first day of camp, let me give you some upcoming dates and events. The team will report to Rantoul and start their two weeks of practice on Monday. We will scrimmage at Rantoul High School on Sat., Aug. 11. That, of course, is free and open to the public. Fans are welcome at all the practices in Rantoul.

I also encourage you to keep logging on to We will continue to bring lots of coverage from training camp. We will have audio from Zook after each practice as well as players' interviews, video features ... Check out the new "Illinois Football in the News" link ... and of course this daily blog!

As I end, I just want to wish former Illini and current Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Pashos a Happy 27th Birthday!

Till tomorrow ... GO ILLINI!