URBANA (WCIA) -- Illinois freshman receiver Ricky Smalling has been one of the most talked about players at fall camp. After missing the first four days of practice due a personal issue, the Brother Rice 4-star recruit was made available to the media for the first time on Thursday, chatting 1-on-1 with WCIA 3's Annice McEwan.
"Ricky you've been here about a week now. Where do you feel like you are as far as catching up with the team?"
"I'm catching up really good. I'm still learning. I'm still a freshman so it's a lot of things to there. (I'm) getting used to a few things but I feel like I'm catching up and getting to know things pretty well now."
"What was the biggest you had to make? Was it physical? Was it learning the playbook? Was it joining the team and meshing with the team?"
"I'd say learning the playbook. It's very complex compared to a high school playbook. You've got to hit certain landmarks. You've got to be there on time. The quarterback is putting the ball on the money every play. So you've just got to do your job."
"Some of those older guys, (Mikey) Dudek and Malik (Turner), how have they been incorporating you and getting you caught up, just with their leadership?"
"They're very good leaders. They help on and off the field with anything, any questions I got, especially on the playbook. You'll be going through a play and you'll come back and they'll be like, 'Hey you did this wrong. You've got to do that.' And you just take it all in."
"Finally, Coach Smith has been talking a lot about you. He seems very excited and just talks about your athleticism and what you can offer this team. What's it like to have that kind of backing by your head coach?"
"It's amazing. He's the greatest coach I've ever had."