Illini training camp quick hits | Day 4

Aug 7, 2023
The second week of Illinois football training camp began Monday. Here's what coach Bret Bielema had to say, from beat writer Scott Richey:
Injury update
The Illinois roster remains relatively injury-free at this point of camp. Offensive lineman Zachary Barlev (mild ankle sprain) and running back Jordan Anderson (back) have been held out, but both could return to practice by Tuesday and be good to go for the first camp scrimmage on Friday.
Safety Matthew Bailey, who missed all of spring ball with a foot injury and had a "little bit of a setback" this summer, received a positive report and should be able to be more involved. Bailey projects as a starter in Illinois' rebuilt secondary — likely filling the role Sydney Brown held down most of the last five seasons.
"I'm constantly yelling for him to back up because he's trying to creep further out on the field," Bielema said. "He's been really good with our young safeties. The professional side of him, it's always a concern when players miss time, but with him it probably lessens my concern."
Illini legacy, kind of
Bielema brought in a familiar name to bolster his recruiting staff, with Houston Griffith's hire officially announced Monday. The former Notre Dame safety is the son of Howard Griffith, the former Illini running back and NCAA record holder for most rushing touchdowns in a game. Bielema pursued the younger Griffith in the transfer portal when Bielema first started at Illinois and kept tabs on him after he returned to the Fighting Irish.
"Even though we couldn't get him, he went back to Notre Dame, I filed way in my head when he's done playing, I want to get him in the building," Bielema said. "He expressed he wanted to get into coaching. I knew I had a personnel spot open and brought him into the fold, and he's just been very impressive. A guy that walks with a lot of confidence. You just see the way he carries himself.
Bielema said executive director of personnel and recruiting Pat Embleton has spoken highly of what the younger Griffith has already brought to the program.
"That's an entry-level deal that he's just kind of being him," Bielema said. "We're showing him the personnel side."
Offensive line coming together
The left side of Illinois' offensive line is locked down. Julian Pearl and Isaiah Adams paired off last season at left tackle and left guard, respectively, and return as starters this fall. Josh Kreutz also seems to have the upper hand to replace Alex Pihlstrom at center. That leaves the right side of the line up for grabs, with returning starter Zy Crisler potentially moving from right guard to right tackle. That leaves one open spot and plenty of competition.
"Jordyn Slaughter was probably the best sixth-man in football for us," Bielema said. "A lot of teams would love to have a guy like that. A guy that's probably grown as much in this program the last two years, Josh Gesky, is just incredibly focused and determined and works his tail off. One day last spring (freshman Brandon Henderson) played four of the five offensive positions in one practice — extremely versatile and extremely high football IQ. Some other guys, Hunter Whitenack is in the mix over there. We're trying to find our best combination."

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