Illinois wrapped up its spring session Saturday with the Orange and Blue Spring Game at Memorial Stadium. The Illini played four 12-minute quarters and the offense beat the defense 26-21 as the team used a special scoring system.
Let's take a quick look at the game.
Quotable: "Right now that position is wide open between the guys coming back and the freshmen we have coming in. Whoever wants it, go get it. And someone should want it because there are some real good linemen blocking in front of then. Someone is going to get 1,000 yards. I don't know who that is yet. We're going to run the ball well. I have no question about that. We just have to find out who that person will be. That's probably the biggest concern I have -- who is that running back?" -- offensive coordinator Paul Petrino
Illinois is looking to build depth at receiver, and Ryan Lankford certainly helped his cause Saturday. As projected starting wideouts A.J. Jenkins and Darius Millines sat out with injuries, Lankford recorded five receptions for 64 yards. He capitalized on his increased reps this spring and was named the team's most improved offensive player for the session. "He's a guy who comes to work every day and he always has a smile on his face," coach Ron Zook said. "He's going to be an awfully good player for us."
Defensive highlights included a diving interception from Miami Thomas, a talented cornerback who has had zero luck with injuries during his college career. I remember chatting with the colorful Thomas during preseason camp in 2009 and talking about his big plans for that coming season. If he can stay on the field this fall, he should help what might be a very good Illini secondary. It'll also be interesting to see what happens with young linebackers Houston Bates and Jonathan Brown. Bates earned a spring award for best effort from a defensive player. Brown played a lot as a true freshman in 2010 and has a "chance to be a special guy," Zook said.
As referenced above, the race at running back is wide open entering the summer. Jason Ford had a chance to separate himself this spring but didn't do much after suffering a bruised knee early in the session. Petrino made it clear he wants to see more from Ford this summer. Troy Pollard had a good spring before suffering a concussion, while Ean Days took most of the carries Saturday and had a touchdown run. This is a spot where a freshman like Donovonn Young could contribute right away.