Coaches 'picking on' McClellin and he likes it


Coaches 'picking on' McClellin and he likes it

Special-teams work generally is placed in the middle of practice. The vast majority of players leave their position groups and go under the direction of coordinator Dave Toub for punt and punt return, and kickoff and kickoff returns.

Quarterbacks, most wide receivers and running backs, and various veterans like a Lance Briggs or Brian Urlacher are excused if they are not on any of the phases.

Rookies are pretty much all in. Except one.

Shea McClellin.

Normally a 260-pound rookie defensive end, particularly one with speed, finds himself covering kicks. Its how Israel Idonije first distinguished himself.

But McClellin was taken down instead to spend some one-on-one time with coordinator Rod Marinelli. He might have preferred running gassers as part of kick coverage.

Marinelli donned long blue arm pads, the kinds of things you put on if youre dealing with the business end of a Doberman, and stood facing McClellin in a form of speed-reaction drill.

Marinelli raises an arm, McClellin knocks it down. Marinelli reaches with an arm, McClellin parries it.

Then Marinelli went illegal, throwing in arms to the face, pushing McCellin in the facemask, and delivering an occasional roundhouse swing.

McClellin started getting mad. That was part of the idea.

He was getting me a little bit, McClellin said, laughing. He was trying to upset me. I wasnt sure what he was doing. He was hitting me in the face and I wasnt sure what I was doing exactly. A couple of times I was stepping backwards and he really got me bad.

He was trying to get my confidence down with some of those things but it was all good. He was honing in on my technique and youre a little tired, a little frustrated, and thats when your technique is most important and also when it can slip.

Marinelli was seeing what he wanted to see.

Good solid work, a lot of the movement we felt that he had, Marinelli said. His work habits are very good, so just learn a little of what were doing, the tempos good. Good solid work.

Illini announce athletics hall of fame with Dick Butkus as first member


Illini announce athletics hall of fame with Dick Butkus as first member

Illinois announced Thursday the establishment of a university athletics hall of fame, and who better than Dick Butkus to be the first inductee?

According to the announcement, Illinois has discussed creating an athletics hall of fame to honor past student-athletes for years, but this is the first time it's been acted upon — not necessarily a surprise now that Josh Whitman, a former Illinois football player, is now in charge of the department.

"The University of Illinois has an incredible and storied history in athletics," Whitman said in the announcement. "Legendary names in sports history are found throughout the Illini record books, and we are excited to honor them in our new Hall of Fame. Since the athletic program's inception in 1890, some of the world's greatest athletes have competed in the orange and blue. Ultimately, as we begin to populate the Hall of Fame, our collection of recognized greats will compare favorably with that of any institution in the nation."

Butkus, of course, is the obvious choice to be the first announced member of the hall of fame's inaugural class.

Regarded by many as the best linebacker and defensive football player ever, Butkus spent three seasons in Champaign, twice a unanimous All-American selection. Playing both center and linebacker at Illinois, he finished in the top six in Heisman Trophy voting in 1963 and 1964, a shocking accomplishment for someone playing a position other than quarterback, running back or receiver.

Butkus made 374 tackles in three seasons and is one of just two players — the other being Red Grange — to have his number retired at Illinois. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (thanks to his remarkable career with the Bears), and the annual award for the best linebacker in college football is named after Butkus.

"The University of Illinois has played an extremely important role in my life," Butkus said in the announcement. "I have many life-long relationships that began at the U of I and have always been proud to call myself a Fighting Illini. To be recognized in the inaugural class of the Athletics Hall of Fame is a terrific feeling. I'm very proud of what my teams and I accomplished, including the 1963 Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl victory. Thank you for this honor."

The Illini will announce the entire inaugural class in February, with induction coming next September.

Gustav Forsling out, Corey Crawford starting vs. Devils

Gustav Forsling out, Corey Crawford starting vs. Devils

Gustav Forsling will not travel and Corey Crawford will start when the Blackhawks face the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Forsling, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury sustained against the Calgary Flames on Monday night, did not practice on Thursday. Coach Joel Quenneville is still hopeful that the defenseman can play Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Blackhawks were switching lines again, putting Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together on the top line. Marian Hossa took Kane’s place on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov and Tyler Motte moved to the third line.

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“Yeah, I guess change can be good in this sense. We can probably produce a little bit more offense and have the puck a little bit more throughout the game,” Kane said. “I’ve played with Jonny a bunch before. Obviously, not as much lately. But I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a fun way to play hockey. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the game, and probably in my mind the easiest player to play with. It’ll be fun to get back out there with him and try to create something, try to produce and have some fun with it.”

Meanwhile, forward Andrew Desjardins (lower body) continues to improve. Quenneville said Desjardins could be skating in the next day or so.