That was the first challenge. We had three good players opt out. That's the first unique challenge. "We actually had four practices before we knew our opponent. As soon as we came bowl eligible, I started an in-season, eight-week program that allowed our developmental crew to go on an eight-week window of strength and conditioning training. We had five practices devoted to them. We practiced about 40 to 50 guys. "That was the biggest reward. It's really kind of almost like a mini spring conditioning for our younger players. Then even after we became aware obviously we were playing Mississippi State, a very good team, we really didn't transition to Mississippi State preparation until after three more practices where it was good on good.
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" On Aaron Henry's transition to defensive coordinator: "Yeah, unfortunately because of the timing of the whole thing, I believe Tuesday morning I knew that Ryan was going to get the job. I was with Aaron. That's when I told him. "We were at home that week. Of course, that was the last week of live recruiting. I was telling people in the homes, everyone wants to know who is going to be the DB coordinator. They thought I was talking about me. "I really want to keep it under wraps for one reason. I think it's great telling your players first. It was the way it played out, I knew that wasn't going to be possible. Literally Taz called Aaron and I in the car. I told Aaron I was going to name him coordinator about an hour earlier. We were driving to a recruit's home.
The 85-rule scholarship has helped. I think it's a necessarily evil in the world we're in right now. " "We're actually 100%. The only guy, Josh Gesky, who is a backup lineman, he got injured in bowl practice before we left. I don't know if he'll play. He's a backup lineman on field goal. "Otherwise, everybody other than guys you know about, the guys that have missed the season all year, but should be good to go.
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Taz called, and he thought he was going to be leaving. Aaron started to tell a few guys what was happening as well. "The reaction has been awesome. At practice, there's a game plan involved with Mississippi State. We'll do a lot of things that we've done, but we'll also change up some things. "I'm excited for the off-season. Whoever I bring in in the outside linebacker room, I know exactly what I'm looking for there. I got a pool of five or six guys. I'll kind of sort through that with Aaron and the rest of the staff. I'm kind of elevating Jamo as well to a title that I think those two guys.
We kind of sprinkle that in. " On players stepping up: "As you guys know, we really got banged up in the secondary at the end of the year this last season. Obviously Spoon and Syd were huge parts of our back end, our success. " "We have been able, the last two or three games, to get Xavier Scott. Had a tremendous role, really from the Michigan game on, played a lot of football for us.
"Everybody runs their program a little bit different. We're a development-type program. There's been guys that came in, Tommy DeVito, we're a different football team because of the quarterback. That was an immediate one. "Right now, we have some portal guys we haven't been able to talk about yet. The portal thing is very frustrating because you can't sign them to anything. You can sign them to an NLI, if you want to burn it. It's not binding. They can literally take the scholarship and then go. There's no repercussions on them, it's just on the school. "We don't sign our guys. They're not literally going to be committed 100% to our program until the first day of class, for us, 17th of January, after Martin Luther King Day. "The NCAA is trying to catch up to it.
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We got good at football again. Then the last 10 practices are all devoted to Mississippi State. "The reward, just scheduled everything on the front end here, let them have an aquarium day, our guys hopped on a boat, saw dolphins. I didn't really join them, but they really seemed excited about it. Not a lot of dolphins in Illinois. Today, I could tell by the attitude walking in the door. I have a team meeting every day.
"You can do that when you have guys that know each other. Heck, those guys played together. I think it's exciting about what our defense has been and maybe possibly where it can go. " On addressing player concerns following coaching changes: "What's kind of been new to these guys I think is they've been around a staff that they love.
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Mississippi State vs. Illinois prediction, pick, ReliaQuest Bowl odds, spread, live stream, watch online, TV - NewsBreakFROM LOCAL CONTRIBUTORSMore Relatedsaturdaydownsouth. comIllinois to honor Mike Leach during ReliaQuest Bowl against Mississippi StateIllinois joins the majority of college football teams that have or will honor Mike Leach during bowl season. The Illini will have a special circumstance since their bowl game is the ReliaQuest Bowl against Leach’s team, Mississippi State. The Illini will wear the helmet sticker that’s commonly used around the SEC and across college football: “MIKE” with a cowbell in place of the i.
I kind of start the day off with a schedule, what's going to go on. Earliest morning we've gotten guys up. 11:00 game, I wanted to transition into that. The mood wasn't there. "I have a freshmen talent show pool, without hazing them, they're showing their talents, they get a chance to come up. Joey Okla did a Conor McGregor impersonation that was to die for the other day. Today, Elijah Mc-Cantos and Gabe Jacas had a dance-off that was pretty entertaining.