CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - When Illinois takes the field Saturday against Youngstown State, it will be our first chance to see how much the defense has improved. "It still comes down to tackling," said head coach Tim Beckman. "It still comes down to rushing the passer, and catching the football on interceptions. But I think we've gotten better. We see that as a defense throughout this preseason."
MT. ZION, Ill. - Payton Grinestaff's first year at quarterback didn't start well. "I think he had like seven picks in the first four games," said Mt. Zion head coach Mike Popovich. But it finished great. "[He] didn't throw another one the last five games and got better every week," Popovich said. "You can't say that about a lot of kids, and he is definitely not satisfied."
MAHOMET, Ill. - Mahomet-Seymour hit the practice field at 6:00 a.m. Tuesday to beat the heat as they get ready for their season opener against Mt. Zion. Seventh-year head coach Keith Pogue left it up to the seniors to decide whether to practice before or after school. They said it was worth waking up early. "I'm actually a big morning guy," said senior Joe Kenney. "So I don't mind coming out here and getting down and doing some work. It does beat getting in the heat though."
CHARLESTON, Ill. - The battle continues in Charleston to see who will replace Jimmy Garoppolo as Eastern Illinois' starting quarterback. The Panthers play their season opener Thursday at Minnesota, and new head coach Kim Dameron - who has been a defensive coach his entire career - still has not announced a starter. It will either be fifth-year senior Andrew Manley or Kentucky transfer Jalen Whitlow.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Zach Grant likes being the underdog. It's all he knows, so he embraces it. "I love it," he said. "It's just motivation to go out and do your best everyday and prove people wrong." Grant was an all-state receiver at Rochester High School, teaming up with Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt to help the Rockets win back-to-back state titles. He set an IHSA record for most receiving yards in a season his senior year. He's second in the record books in receptions. But at 6' 0'' tall and 190 pounds he didn't have any Division I scholarship offers out of high school.
WCIA 3 Sports brings you a preseason look at the Illinois football team and some of the top storylines we'll be watching this high school football season.
URBANA, Ill. - The Urbana Tigers are two seasons removed from the best year in program history. They won the Big 12 title and won a playoff game for the first time in school history. So last season's 2-7 finish isn't sitting well with them. "I think the issue last year in 2013 was we just didn't know how to handle success," said head coach Nathan Watson. "With that being said we were right there 14 points approximately from the playoffs and a lot of fourth quarter losses."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It is finally game week for the Illinois football team, and they have already spent some time game planning for the season opener Saturday against Youngstown State. There has been a lot of talk about optimism this offseason, and now it's time to show what they can do. Illinois will try to snap a four-game home losing streak when they take the field Saturday, and head coach Tim Beckman says he likes what he is seeing from his team and thinks they will be ready to go.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - As game week arrives, there is really only one starting job still up for grabs, and that is at right tackle where junior Pat Flavin and redshirt freshman Christian DiLauro are fighting for that spot. Head coach Tim Beckman said Monday Flavin holds a slim edge, but DiLauro has been charging hard. Beckman wants to let that battle play out this week before making a final decision on Thursday. "I would give the nod if we were playing tomorrow to Pat Flavin," Beckman said. "We've still got three more days to compete to be that starting right tackle."
WCIA 3's Bret Beherns has an inside look at a baseball team turning back the clock when they play.
Rochester head coach Derek Leonard has high praise for his former quarterback Wes Lunt. Lunt was named the Illini starting quarterback this week.
Central's Montrel Moore is healthy this season and looking to have a big year playing on both sides of the ball.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The game time is now set for the Braggin' Rights game against Missouri. The U of I announced Friday that the game will tip off at 1:00 pm CT on December 20th and will be televised on ESPN 2. Meanwhile the Big Ten schedule was released Thursday night, and the big thing that stands out immediately is that Illinois opens up with four of their first five games on the road - including back-to-back games at Michigan at Ohio State. It's a tough way to start, but it makes finishing strong all the more important.
GIBSON CITY, Ill. - The high school football regular season begins one week from tonight, and if GCMS wants to get back to the playoffs again this year, youth will be the name of the game. GCMS is working hard in camp to replace 17 seniors. They have only five seniors this year, but those leaders are helping the younger players come along.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - SHG won the state title last season - the fourth in program history - and this year the Cyclones are once again primed for another deep playoff run. They return quarterback Gabe Green, a Southern Miss. commit - and Minnesota commit Quinn Oseland is back to protect him. Star receiver Malik Turner is gone - he's now a freshman at Illinois - but head coach Ken Leonard says they should have plenty of talent to fill his shoes.