Everyone’s camping this week. Not real campfire and s’mores camping, no, but pre-season sports camp. Our kids at soccer, the high schoolers in various sports, on up to to the college kids. As coaches with the younger set, pre-season camp is our means to get in more practice, conditioning, and training without throwing the parents into open revolt. If you said, “OK, we’re practicing four times this week and each session is extra long,” it’s taken a bit differently than the pre-season camp concept.
Across the state in Rantoul, the Fighting Illini football team have been camping at the one-time Air Force Base, doing two-a-days, knocking off the rust, and forming the depth chart. Camp Rantoul has a long tradition for the team, going back several coaches, which typically ushers in the Beemsville football season. Since we don’t really follow the NFL that closely, Illinois football is our pigskin outlet. A questionable outlet, some might say… As my uncle observed this past weekend, “it’s not easy being an Illini fan.”
We’re optimistic this year, though. We see an above .500 season, a bowl, and gradual progress. The reasoning is pretty simple: start with this schedule. It’s a lot more manageable than recent years. Toss-up games are at home. No multiple game road-trips. Avoiding some of the better teams from the Big 10 East. Also, this is the first season in (too) many where the team has both the offensive and defensive coordinators returning. Bill Cubit on offense was a must-retain, and Tim Banks on the D gets the chance to show what he can do with a little more experience and his guys. So the players don’t have to learn new systems for the first time in years, and you would think that little bit of consistency would pay off. Continue reading