Aug. 7, 2000
ROOKIES OPEN UP 2000 CAMPAIGN:
In high 80-degree weather, the Fighting Illini opened up preparations for the 2000 season with rookie double session practices this morning and afternoon. The team worked on special teams, individual position drills, and ended with 7-on-7 and team drills. Quarterbacks Christian Morton and Mark Kornfeld connected with receivers Ade Adeyemo and Jamaal Clark for numerous 20-plus-yard catches. The team spent the morning and afternoon sessions on the Memorial Stadium turf.
"I was very impressed with the freshmen today. This is the first time we have been able to sit down with these players," Head Coach Ron Turner said. "We had two meetings to teach routes, protections, concepts and blocking schemes. They came out and were very productive today."
With the loss of record-setting placekicker Neil Rackers, the Illini have a wide-open race for kicking duties. True-freshman Patrick King of Fredericksburg, Va. will be pushing punter Steve Fitts for the job. During his first two practices in an Illini jersey, King worked on PAT kicking and kickoffs along with Joliet Catholic's Joe Van Tassell and an Urbana High School product, punter Matt Minnes. King logged kickoffs near the goal line and a hang-time of over four seconds. Van Tassel and King consistently hit field goals over 30 yards, while working mainly with Kornfeld as holder. Minnes registered hang times of 4.40 and 4.30 seconds on his punting efforts. His long for the day was 40 yards.
"As a group, the kickers are progressing well," Turner said. "Patrick (King) has a very strong leg and I am impressed with the way the ball flies off his foot. He gets the ball up in a hurry and has a real chance to compete. Matt (Minnes) is working primarily on his punting and consistently had good hang time."
The annual Fan Appreciation/Media Day is scheduled for Thursday, August 10 from 4:30-8 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. The activities begin with Coach Turner's press conference at 4:30 p.m. and a team photograph at 5:00 p.m., followed by one-on-one interview opportunities and video/photography stations. Fans will be admitted on the West Main side of Memorial Stadium beginning at 6:30 p.m. to receive posters and schedule cards and meet the entire 2000 Illinois football team. The events will conclude at 8 p.m.