CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Illinois started what it hopes will be a road to improvement on Monday with its first preseason practice.
The Illini are coming off a 4-8 season (1-7 Big Ten) that, while better than head coach Tim Beckman's two-win opening season in Champaign, probably will have to be improved on if Beckman wants to maintain job security.
Six wins in two seasons, senior offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic said, has left the team frustrated.
"We're upset, we want to win so bad," he said. "We won't end practice on an interception or a fumble. We'll work on it until we get it right."
Monday's opening practice begins 20 days of work split between the campus in Champaign and the team's traditional preseason home in Rantoul, about 20 miles north.
Most of the practices will be closed to the public. Those in Rantoul, which start Aug. 11, will be open.
The Illini bring back most of last season's coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. The former Western Michigan head coach is credited with reviving Illinois' offense last season under senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, a starter for most of his four seasons in Champaign.
"It's been weird just looking back and Nate's no longer there," tight end Jon Davis said.
With Scheelhaase at quarterback, the Illini were sixth in scoring in the Big Ten last season at 29.7. A year earlier the team averaged 16.7 points a game, worst in the Big Ten.