Spring Practice: Secondary Preview
Illinois gridders work out in sunny, chilly conditions - 3/26/99
The Fighting Illini completed their second day of spring football practice in shorts on the East practice field of Memorial Stadium under sunny skies with chilly temperatures at 38 degrees with winds out of the northeast at 4 MPH.
The secondary brings talent and depth with four returning starters in cornerbacks Tony Francis and Asim Pleas and safeties Bobby Jackson and Muhammad Abdullah. Among the reserves pushing the starters are Johnny Rogers, Bobie Singleton, and newcomer Johnnie Harris.
"Our defensive backs are playing well," said Head Coach Ron Turner. "They are flying around and making plays. We have a group with athletic ability, experience, and depth."
New Defensive Backs Coach Chris Green returns to his alma mater inheriting a strong nucleus of talent. However, he is encouraging competition for playing time.
"I told the guys everything is wide open," said Green. "I want everyone to come out and compete, work hard, and get better every day."
Green will employ a more aggressive style to coverage this season, including more man-to-man and bump-and-run coverage from his cornerbacks.
Senior Asim Pleas is one of the veterans adapting to Green's system.
"With a new coach we are learning new techniques," said Pleas. "Right now we are just trying to get everyone on the same page. It's a learning process these first few days."
At safety, Green will expect his players to make more plays in the new scheme.
"The safeties will play more cover-two which requires more range from our safeties," said Green. "We'll see how everybody adapts."
"All our guys worked very hard during winter conditioning, especially with improving their quickness," added Green. "So far this spring, Bobie Singleton has really stepped up and Johnny Rogers has improved a lot. Tony Francis and Asim Pleas always give a great effort. We are also expecting big things out of Johnnie Harris."
The Illini will don the pads for the first time Saturday morning at 10 a.m. for practice # 3.