Harold Shelton III, BTN Studio Researcher, August 23, 2016
The penultimate stop on our annual football tour brings us to Champaign, Illinois, to watch former NFL and Super Bowl coach Lovie Smith and Illinois practice.
Before we check out Illinois' latest team Wednesday, here are five nuggets to know about the Fighting Illini.
1. Lovie Smith, who spent 13 seasons as a defensive assistant in college, including stops at Ohio State (1995, defensive backs coach) and Wisconsin (1987, linebackers coach), returns to the amateur ranks for the first time since 1995.
2. Wes Lunt's 22.5 completions per game last season paced Big Ten quarterbacks.
3. Dawuane Smoot has totaled 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks the last two seasons.
4. Illinois' defense made significant strides in 2015. How much? Check it out below.
2012-14; 2015 (FBS ranks in parentheses)
PPG: 33.8 (109th); 23.3 (37th)ll Tour
Rush YPG: 224.4 (120th); 166.4 (62nd)
Total YPG: 442.4 (108th); 350.8 (30th)
Pass Effic: 146.8 (113th); 112.2 (20th)
5. Five of Illinois' final six opponents in 2016 won at least 10 games last season, the lone exception being Minnesota (6-7). View full schedule.