Illini Football Team Opens up Training Camp

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CHAMPAIGN -- After an off-season full of controversy, a return to the field was probably just what the Illinois football team needed.

"This is what you work for, this is everything you do. I'm really excited about being with the guys today," head coach Tim Beckman said.

The Illini opened up preseason training camp outside of Memorial Stadium Thursday, holding a split-squad practice. Last year at this time the big storyline was the quarterback battle. This time around, Wes Lunt is the unquestioned leader of the offense. However, the Rochester native says he's not taking his job for granted.

"I am named the starter, but that doesn't mean anything," Lunt said. "I have to come out and compete everyday and work harder than I've ever worked."

The defense lost a key piece before camp even started. Defensive end Paul James withdrew from the university and is no longer with the team.

"We wish the best to Paul...I know it was tough on him, but he'll take it as a challenge to get better," Beckman said. "He was listed as our third (DE)...we've got enough, we've got some depth there with our defensive front."

It was an emotional day for offensive coordinator Bill Cubit and his son, quarterbacks coach Ryan Cubit. Bill's mother passed away Wednesday.

"She was just a great woman," Cubit said, fighting back tears. "She would want me here."

Cubit plans to miss a practice next week to attend her funeral.

The Illini will hold two more split-squad practices in Champaign, before leaving for Rantoul on Sunday.

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