Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illini Football Coaches Likely to Find Answers Soon

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illini Football Coaches Likely to Find Answers Soon

Article excerpt

CHAMPAIGN, Ill * As a new coaching staff gets a crash course in its new Illini football team, spring practice continues Friday evening on the grass fields adjacent to Memorial Stadium.

Coach Lovie Smith and his staff are playing from behind, trying to make up ground due Smith's late hiring and delays in the start of spring ball forced by the unusual coaching transition.

Coaches are learning about the team. The team is learning about the coaches. And all of us have unanswered questions. Here are 10 of them:

1. How serious is the knee injury that sidelined WR Mike Dudek on Tuesday? * For now, only the team's medical staff, coaches and Dudek know for sure. But after missing the entire 2015 season due to an ACL tear that occurred exactly one year ago today, any knee issue to the team's most dynamic pass-catcher is a major concern.

2. What does offensive coordinator Garrick McGee think of his quarterbacking group? * Sure, senior Wes Lunt is the incumbent starter. He has the most experience and the best arm. But Lunt is immobile and it's likely McGee will be recruiting QBs who can run as well as throw. A depth chart that ranks Lunt, Chayce Crouch, Jimmy Fitzgerald, Jeff George Jr., and early enrollee freshman Eli Peters would be interesting to see.

3. If Lunt is the current starter, who is Lunt's backup? * Under Bill Cubit, the answer was Crouch, whom he recruited out of Granville, Ohio. But even though Crouch can run the ball, few outsiders saw Crouch's potential as a passer that Cubit seemed to see. McGee's analysis is all that matters now.

4. When will Lovie Smith decide it's time to see how the team looks in a scrimmage setting? * Defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson was asked that question and he claimed not to know. "At some point, coach will say we're going live and that's when we'll do it," he said. Since the meaningful parts of practice are off-limits to media and the public, it would be nice if Smith scrimmages for at least a portion of the "open" practice on Saturday, April 16. …

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