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Lovie Smith

Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman, left, introduces new football coach Lovie Smith at a press conference in March.


One in a series of post-spring looks at Big Ten football teams.

2015 RECORD: 5-7, 2-6 Big Ten, tied for fifth, West Division

COACH: Lovie Smith (first season)

RETURNING STARTERS: Offense (7), Defense (4), Specialists (1)

TOP RETURNERS: QB Wes Lunt 270-481 passes, 2,761 yards, 6 int., 14 TDs; RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn 157-723 rushing, 9 TDs; WR Desmond Kain 53-492 receiving, 1 TD, WR Malik Turner 39-510 receiving, 3 TDs; FS Taylor Barton, 4 interceptions, 49 yards; P Ryan Frain, 70 punts, 40.2 avg.

THE SPRING THING: Lovie Smith’s late hiring and an overhaul of the Fighting Illini coaching staff this spring led to plenty of change in Champaign-Urbana, where scooters are no longer an acceptable mode of transportation for Illinois players.

Following procedures that were typically contractually mandated for his NFL players, the Illini will seek other ways to get around campus as they work to build a program around returning starting quarterback Wes Lunt.

Illinois have lost receiver Mikey Dudek and running back Dre Brown for the upcoming season due to ACL injuries suffered this spring. Receiver Malik Turner and running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn enjoyed solid spring work.

Defensively, Illinois will add graduate transfer Hardy Nickerson to its collection of linebackers this fall. Nickerson led Cal in tackles last season and will now play for his father, Hardy Nickerson Sr., who is the new Illini defensive coordinator.


Sept. 3 – Murray State

Sept. 10 – North Carolina

Sept. 17 – Western Michigan

Oct. 1 – at Nebraska

Oct. 8 – Purdue

Oct. 15 – at Rutgers

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Oct. 22 – at Michigan

Oct. 29 – Minnesota

Nov. 5 – Michigan State

Nov. 12 – at Wisconsin

Nov. 19 – Iowa

Nov. 26 – at Northwestern