PEORIA, Ill. — Kendrick Green has an ear-to ear grin on Illinois picture day Tuesday.
There was no practice and he received a break from the grind of training camp.
“We are only four days in (to camp) and I feel like we’ve been here for weeks now,” Green said. “You just have to get used to that cycle. You wake up and it’s football, you repeat it and it’s going every day.”
Another reason for Green to smile — he’s getting high praise from the coaching staff for his work in the off season, in the weight room and in making Illinois’ offensive line better.
“He is a strong, tough, heavyweight wrestler. He is smart with outstanding movement,” said head coach Lovie Smith. We are a mobile offense, you have to be able to move. He can do all those things. He checks off most of the boxes.”
Green redshirted his first year at Illinois (2017) and then moved from the defensive line to the offensive line last year. He started all 12 games at left guard.
Green says he’s playing at 306 pounds in training camp. He’s about 30 pounds heavier than when he came to Illinois as a freshman.
“I think I am the strongest person on the team, not to boast about myself,” Green said with a smile. “I try and play like that. I’m not your average 300-pounder, either. I feel like I am kind of athletic.”
Kendrick Green’s most memorable moment at Memorial Stadium came his senior year of high school when he helped Peoria High win the state football title. Now he thinks it’s about time he has some memories of wins with the Illini on that field.
“I guess I am just tired of everybody saying ‘next season you’ll be good.’ It really gets old. I think now is the time,” Green said. “This has to be the year. I feel like we have to go this year, for sure.”
The Illini were 4-8 (2-7 in the Big Ten) last year. But Lovie Smith says this year’s team is the best of the four he’s had since taking over as head coach.
The team is quietly talking about turning the corner and contending for a bowl berth this fall.
Now that would be something to smile about.