Can’t Wait for Saturday rounduip

Apr. 11—CHAMPAIGN — Several coaches have served two stints on the Illinois football staff in the past.

Mike Bellamy, Dan Roushar and Greg Colby jump to mind. There are others.

The latest two-timer is running backs coach Thad Ward, who joined Bret Bielema’s staff in 2023 after the departure of Cory Patterson to Purdue. Recently, Ward added the title assistant head coach. Ward previously served under Lovie Smith from 2016-2018.

He is enjoying his return engagement.

“It’s a lot different as far as culture,” Ward said after Tuesday’s morning practice. “Obviously, we’re heavy run. We want to run the ball here. I’ve been pleased with my second go-around. Great kids. Great coach. It’s been awesome.”

Ward came back to Illinois after two seasons at Temple and a year at Kansas State.

Save the date

Don’t know about the rest of you, but April 20 is circled on my calendar.

That’s the day media and fans can take an extensive look at Bret Bielema’s fourth Illinois football team.

At this point, the team is a bit of a mystery. Of course, I know what players are back from the 5-7 2023 squad. And I have met many of the newcomers for interviews.

The coaching staff has undergone serious changes. Bielema has new assistants on both sides of the ball. They all seem like bright, friendly people. It will be informative to see them work in a game setting.

Game-time decisions

Fox will show Friday prime-time games starting this season, carrying matchups from the Big Ten, Big 12 and Mountain West.

The plan is to still put the best game each week on its Big Noon Kickoff.

I did quick run through the schedule and here is my early guess of games that could be shown:

The best game of the weekend, LSU vs. Southern California, is already set for Sunday. So Big Noon takes Penn State-West Virginia, leaving the defending national champions for Friday…


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