In the world of college football, Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget expected bigger would be better. "That's what I thought,'' Liuget said. "It didn't work out for me.'' So the junior from Miami dropped 30 pounds, and the 6-foot-3, 285-pounder felt losing weight will make him more mobile and harder to block.
In the world of college football, Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget expected bigger would be better.
"That's what I thought,'' Liuget said. "It didn't work out for me.''
So the junior from Miami dropped 30 pounds, and the 6-foot-3, 285-pounder felt losing weight will make him more mobile and harder to block. With the loss of tackles Josh Brent to the NFL and Sirod Williams to graduation from a unit that ranked eighth in the Big Ten Conference in rushing defense a year go, Liuget (pronounced legit) will likely face double teams from offensive lines designed to push him out of the way.
"They demand more out of me this year,'' Liuget said. "I demand more out of myself. I feel like I have to achieve more than last year. I want to double my numbers from last year.''
One thing for sure to increase are his snaps per game, from the 40s to somewhere in the high 60s, said defensive line coach Keith Gilmore.
"As he goes, we go,'' Gilmore said. "We need him.''
Liuget showed up with big credentials (four-star recruit) and big expectations (win a BCS championship).
He's not yet played in a bowl game or post a winning season, and now he's taking on more responsibility.
A leader in the meeting rooms, Gilmore said, Liuget is concentrating more on the technique rather than relying on size or quick feet.
"In the Big Ten, there are some big linemen coming at you,'' Liuget said. "It's different that high school where you're the biggest guy on the field. You have to learn technique so you can maneuver.''
A member of Florida's top 25 in the Miami Herald from Hialeah High School, Liuget chose Illinois over Miami, Florida State and LSU. He started six games in his first two seasons.
"I don't know if he really understood how close he was to being really good,'' Gilmore said. "He's got the potential and ability to be a super player. Behind all that size, he was a 215-, 220-pound quarterback, receiver and athlete (in lower levels). He still maintains that athleticism. He just got bigger. Some guys have a knack for making plays. He's one of those guys.''
Liuget had 36 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and 2 1/2 sacks last season. Liuget will essentially handle one spot with defensive tackles Akeem Spence and Glenn Foster sharing the other spot and spelling Liuget for some snaps. Liuget can play either defensive tackle slot.
Spence is a redshirt freshman and Foster a 260-pound converted linebacker. Daryle Ballew and Wisdom Onyegbule are the backups, but freshman Austin Teitsma showed some promise despite his relatively small 6-2, 240-pound frame.
"Every day, Teitsma is getting better,'' Gilmore said. "Each day, I increase him with a little more reps. I'm thinking about (playing him).''
NOTES: Illini junior middle linebacker Martez Wilson was among the 51 players on the preseason Butkus Award watch list. ... Redshirt freshman fullback Greg Fuller is not in camp but still with the team, according to team officials. The reason for his absence hasn't been released.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.