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The Fighting Illini will play the Washington Huskies at Soldier Field in 2013, the school announced on Tuesday. Originally, the game was to be played in Champaign, but the Illini elected to take the opportunity to play in Chicago.
Here's what Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas had to say about the move:
"This is a great opportunity for our football team to play in one of the most historic football venues in the nation," athletic director Mike Thomas said in a release. "Soldier Field is in an incredible location that will allow our fans in the Chicagoland area and from around the state an opportunity to watch the Fighting Illini take on an outstanding Pac-12 opponent in Washington."
This game is scheduled for Sept. 14, 2013.
Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Tim Beckman told reporters that he was open to using a two-quarterback system in 2012 after insisting that junior Nathan Scheelhaase is still the starter at the moment, as Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago writes.
Scheelhaase was the starting quarterback for Illinois last season, but sophomore Reilly O'Toole got significant playing time as well. It appears that a similar scenario could arise this season, one in which Scheelhaase is the primary option but Beckman selectively uses O'Toole as a change of pace.
Last season, Scheelhaase started 13 games, completing 184 of 291 pass attempts for 2,110 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also ran for 624 yards and six touchdowns during his sophomore season. O'Toole appeared in 11 games, completing 40 of 67 passes for 270 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.
The first domino has fallen at Penn State after the NCAA handed down its sanctions in wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Ryan Nowicki has announced his intention to transfer, and he's reportedly targeted the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Penn State Redshirt freshman Right Tackle and Cactus product Ryan Nowicki has decided to transfer and is highly likely headed to Illinois— John Gambadoro (@Gambo620) July 24, 2012
Northern Illinois defensive back Tommy Davis has decided to transfer to the University of Illinois. Because he is a graduate transfer, he will be eligible to play during the 2012 season.
The 5-11, 205-pound Davis redshirted the 2008 season at Northern Illinois before becoming a major contributor for the Huskies from 2009-11. Davis was twice named to the All-MAC team as a return specialist (2009-10) and also made a big impact as a free safety, racking up 111 tackles over the last two seasons. In 2010, Davis shared the MAC lead with four fumble recoveries, while his 73 tackles that season were fourth-most on the team.
Davis made 19 starts for Northern Illinois and appeared in a total of 41 games during his time with the Huskies.
Caleb Day, a versatile athlete from Hilliard, Ohio, has made an oral commitment to play football at the University of Illinois. Day is rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com. He had offers from Ohio State Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Cincinnati and Marshall, according to Rivals. Here's what his high school coach had to say about him:
"He's a kid who has a lot of athleticism," Santagata said. "He's got breakaway speed, and he also has good size."
Day also had offers from Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Cincinnati, Indiana and Purdue, among others, according to Santagata.
"He really liked coach (Tim) Beckman," Santagata said. "He was extremely high on Illinois and Coach Beckman."
Including Day, the Illini have 11 commitments in their 2013 recruiting class.
The football game between the Ilinois Fighting Illini and Arizona State Sun Devils on Sept. 8 will be going down at night, as Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune writes. The two teams will play at 9:30 p.m. CST on ESPN, the seventh game time that's been announced for the Illini's upcoming 12-game regular season.
Last year, Illinois beat Arizona State 17-14 in an early season match-up in Champaign, one of six consecutive wins to begin the season. That winning streak vaulted Illinois into the national rankings before the team ultimately became the first ever to begin the regular season with six straight wins before finishing it with six straight losses. The team did end the season with a victory over UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
September's game against Arizona State will be the second game for Illinois under new head coach Tim Beckman, who was hired after the team fired Ron Zook. It's the biggest game on the team's non-conference schedule, which also includes Western Michigan, Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech.
Defensive tackle Michael Buchanan tallied 7.5 sacks for the Illinois Fighting Illini last season, good for the fourth most in the Big Ten. At the moment, the incoming senior has his jaw wired shut, and new coach Tim Beckman doesn't know how it happened.
A school spokesman said Buchanan suffered a broken jaw in an altercation on Saturday. Buchanan and his wired jaw is expected to see a specialist later in the week. Illinois sports information assistant director Kent Brown said Buchanan should be ready for Illinois' upcoming preseason camp.
Said Beckman (via ESPN Chicago):
"We're still in the process of exactly how it happened," Beckman said.
Buchanan was named second-team all-conference by Big Ten coaches and media a season ago as a junior.
After losing their last six regular season games in 2011, the Illinois Fighting Illini were in desperate need of a culture change. Out goes head coach Ron Zook and in comes Tim Beckham, the former top man at Toledo who is now tasked with turning around the mentality of an entire football program. It doesn't sound like Beckham is wasting any time.
Since college players can't be fined monetarily, the Chicago Tribune reports that Beckham has found the next best way to discipline his team: at the lunch table. Many Illinois players were surprised when a plate of porridge was placed in front of them at a recent team banquet.
Those who followed the rules, arriving at classes 10 minutes early and never missing a rep during winter workouts, were treated to steak and eggs at the "All-In Banquet." Those who missed a beat were treated to an Oliver Twist breakfast.
"I think it was a little bit of an eye-opening experience for some of them," Beckman said. "We ask our players to be above and beyond … and compete at a level that we think is a championship level."
Only 21 players were greeted with steak and eggs.
Staples played the "bandit" position in the previous Illinois defensive scheme, and despite the recent off-field problems with Staples, the new Illini head coach, Tim Beckman, appears to still have plans for him. In a recent interview with ESPN's Big Ten Blog, Beckman named Staples as a possible breakout candidate in the 2012-13 season:
There's a possibility of a Justin Staples or a Timmy Kynard or a Brandon Denmark [making tremendous strides]. All of our defensive ends have had outstanding winter workouts, and now they've got to prove it on the field during spring.
The Illini will kick off their spring action on April 14th with their annual navy and blue exhibition game. It is unclear whether or not Staples will participate.