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The New Vision of Illini Football

By Will Charlton

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Spring practice kicked off last week for the Illini.

The team is entering its second season under head coach Bret Bielema and next season should look quite different for them since some new faces have been brought in.

New offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. comes in from Texas-San Antonio, where he led a very successful offense. The Roadrunners were ranked as high as 15th in the country last season along with being ranked 11th in the nation for scoring and 34th for total offense.

Bielema and Lunney have previously worked together when Bielema was the head coach of Arkansas, so Lunney should have no problem adapting to the program.

"This is one of the coolest offenses I've ever been apart of," said tight end Tip Reiman. "Coach Lunney is super helpful. He's a great guy and it's really tight end friendly, so it's a good time. I like it a lot."

But while it may be exciting to be apart of a new offense like this, it takes some adjusting.

"Fast, I'll just say that, fast," said running back Chase Brown.

But, this is something the Illini are excited for since the offense only put up around 20 points a game last season. A fast-paced offense is something the Illini could use, based off that fact alone.

Some new freshman recruits could help add to that new fast-paced offense as well, since the Illini brought in 11 from the state of Illinois, which is the most in-state recruits since 2003.

Photo courtesy of @IlliniFootball twitter

Two of those new recruits are running backs Jordan Anderson and Aidan Laughery and Chase Brown is very happy to have them in the running back room.

"Oh, I love them. I'm trying to take them both under my wing right now and just teach them everything I've gone through," Brown said. "But they're both ballers and I'm just excited for their futures and what they're going to do for this program."

And just like Anderson and Laughery, the other recruits want to make as big of an impact as they can as well.

"I see them all the time in the facility working, just trying to get better," said defensive lineman Keith Randolph. "That's what you want out of a younger class."

Six of the 11 in-state recruits will be joining Keith Randolph on the defense; a defense which was the glue of the team from last season, only allowing around 21 points per game.

In fact, because of how good that defense was, defensive coordinator Ryan Walters got an extension and Randolph is very excited that he still gets to be apart of defense led by Walters.

"Great person, great coach, has really taught me a lot about the game and you know the whole defense loves him," said Randolph. "He brings that juice and that's what you need defensively."

The defense is very comfortable under Walters and the offense is getting there under Lunney, but overall, the team is getting very comfortable under Bielema's system entering year two.

"He's really taken us under his wing and has guided us in a really smooth way," said Reiman. "The team has responded great to that."

Illinois football now has the expectation of winning games and making bowl game appearances year in and year out, and anything short of that will be seen as a wasted season.

"We're hungrier honestly," said Randolph. "Making a bowl game, that's almost mandatory for us."

"Winning games, winning football games," said Brown. "We want to win. We want to do big things. We want to be better than last year."

The first look at the new version of Illini football will be the Orange and Blue Spring game which takes place Thursday, April 21st, at Memorial Stadium.

Photo courtesy of @IlliniFootball twitter


Story photo courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

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