Spring game preview: Illinois

Illinois wraps up its spring session Saturday with the annual Orange and Blue spring game. The Illini will pit the offense against the defense rather than split the squad. Check out the scoring system for the game.

Here's a quick snapshot of the game:

The vitals: 1 p.m. CT (2 p.m. ET) Saturday at Memorial Stadium; admission and parking are free, seating is available in the East stands.

More details: Illinois will hold a merchandise sale beginning at 9 a.m. CT at Memorial Stadium. Information on the sale and other events can be found here and here.

Three things to watch

1. The defensive front seven: Illinois loses a likely first-round draft pick in defensive tackle Corey Liuget and a likely second-round pick in linebacker Martez Wilson. Key contributors like linebacker Nate Bussey and defensive end Clay Nurse also depart. Who will fill the gaps in the front seven? Tackle Akeem Spence and "bandit" Michael Buchanan could lead the way on the line, and tackle Craig Wilson, a converted offensive lineman, is an intriguing prospect. Coordinator Vic Koenning wants to see more leadership from the linebacker position. Veteran Ian Thomas looks to finish the spring on a good note, and younger 'backers like Houston Bates and Jonathan Brown are worth watching.

2. Nathan Scheelhaase's passing: Scheelhaase seemed to make major strides as a passer between the end of the regular season and the Texas Bowl, where he completed his first 13 attempts and finished 18-for-23. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino has seen continued growth this spring, saying that Scheelhaase has improved his accuracy and his release on passes. The receiving corps is thin as both A.J. Jenkins and Darius Millines are out with injuries, so it will be interesting to see if Scheelhaase can get younger wideouts like sophomore Ryan Lankford involved Saturday.

3. The offensive line: Injuries have hit Illinois hard at the running back position this spring, so Saturday should provide a good test for the offensive line. Can the big men up front create rushing lanes for the likes of Ean Days, Bud Golden and fullback Jay Prosch, who has shown promise with increased carries in practice? The line should be a strength for Illinois, and an impressive performance Saturday will prove it. Projected top back Jason Ford will miss the game with a knee injury and Troy Pollard, who has had a very good spring, suffered a concussion in last Saturday's scrimmage.