Illini football excited for new-look offense

Hired offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. in offseason
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Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 7:51 PM CDT
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CHAMPAIGN (Heart of Illinois ABC) - Offense was not a strong suit for Illinois football last year. The Illini ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten, 11th in scoring offense and 10th in total offense, so in the offseason, they made a change, hiring former UTSA offensive coordinator Barry Lunney JR. to the same position. So far the reviews are great for the new OC.

“I just love how much Coach Lunney is bringing to our offense,” said senior offensive linemen Alex Palczewski. “Every single meeting just talking with him, he has a plan for everything. It’s truly, it’s awesome knowing I have an offensive coordinator who understands what he has and just does a great job using his strengths.

Our offensive coordinator, man that dude’s a confident guy,” junior wide receiver Casey Washington said. “We’re going to take shots. We’re going to run the ball too. We’re going to establish the run game and we’re going to play off of that.

The players like Coach Lunney a lot, but what exactly is going to change with him in charge? Expect speed in all aspects of the game.

“I think more than anything he’s an aggressive play caller, Washington said. “You’re out there playing faster and the tempo is a little sped up now.”

“That’s the stuff I absolutely love so the biggest part is getting used to actually moving and just running,” Palczewski said. “It’s a little bit of a different animal but I love this up-tempo offense.

Coach Lunney is the new off-field leader of the offense and there’s a chance, the Illini have a new on-field leader as well. A quarterback competition is brewing between the returning Art Sitkowski and Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito and head coach Bret Bielema knows what he wants to see from whoever eventually wins the job

“That guy’s got to have leadership skills, got to have the ability to handle adversity,” Bielema said. “He’s got to be able to bring others along with him, he’s got to be able to take criticism when things don’t go well.

So far, it seems the battle has been hotly contested so Coach Bielema is going to take his time in making a decision

“I think someone has to separate himself over a period of time,” Bielema said. “I don’t think it’s a one day evaluation and promotion it’s something we’ll keep into effect.”

In making his decision, Bielema will have to consider not only the kind of players both Sitkowski and DeVito are but also their personalities. While they’re both talkative and engaging leaders, they go about things a bit differently.

“Those two naturally have that QB DNA,” Bielema said. “They’re talkers. They’re two different guys too. Tommy is truly one of those guys that embraces and enjoys and loves life every day, very outspoken in demeanor. Art is kind of a coaching voice. Very authoritarian, not afraid to dictate not afraid to speak up, not afraid to criticize of others but himself in a positive way. So, two different guys there but I’m excited to see where they go.

The Illini will have to an answer in less than three weeks. They open the season on Saturday August 27th when they host Wyoming.

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