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Illinois football coach Tim Beckman looking to right the ship as spring practice starts

FILE - In this Nov. 10 2012 file phoIllinois wide receiver Darius Millines runs with ball during an NCAA college

FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2012, file photo, Illinois wide receiver Darius Millines runs with the ball during an NCAA college football game against Minnesota in Champaign, Ill. Illinois spring practice starts Tuesday, March 5, 2013. The team will go through the spring without Millines, who was the team's second most-productive receiver. Millines _ who had 319 yards on 32 catches last year _ was already out with a shoulder injury but is now suspended for violating unspecified team rules, head coach Tim Beckman said Monday, March 4. Beckman said he'll re-evaluate Millines' situation in May. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

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Updated: March 4, 2013 10:46PM



When a new coach takes over a team that has gone to two consecutive bowl games and guides it to a 2-10 record, ‘‘rebuilding’’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind.

But the football experiment at
Illinois continues. Second-year coach Tim Beckman and his revamped staff will take the field Tuesday for the start of spring practice with an eye toward getting a roster with more questions than answers headed in the right direction.

‘‘This is what we come for, to coach football,’’ Beckman said Monday. ‘‘I’m excited about stepping out there, and I’m sure [the players] are excited about getting better and proving we can be a good football team in Champaign.’’

Beckman really could be out on an island if Illinois doesn’t progress, and that won’t be easy against a schedule that features seven bowl teams, plus Ohio State and Penn State. Trying to help him right the ship will be five new
assistants, notably offensive coor-
dinator Bill Cubit and offensive line coach Jim Bridge.

With only four starters returning on defense and even with nine back on offense, the Illini have a lot of proving to do. They finished 11th or 12th in the Big Ten in virtually every important statistic, including scoring (16.7) and points allowed (32.1).

The task got a little more difficult Monday, when Beckman
announced one of his most productive receivers, Darius Millines, had been suspended indefinitely for
violating unspecified team rules. In addition, linebacker Jonathan Brown will be limited in practice as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.

Headlining the returnees is senior quarterback Nate Scheelhaase. The three-year starter remains Illinois’ best bet, particularly if the players around him are capable of executing the clever scheme Cubit plans to install.

‘‘Nathan is a special guy,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘He’s done an outstanding job of leading. We need to give him some time so he can throw.
We need him to complete balls, get the ball out quicker and read his keys properly. This offense is based very much on what the quarterback sees.’’

NOTES: Illinois will practice from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 29 at Gately Stadium.

† The spring game will be played at 8 p.m. April 12 and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

† The Illini will play Washington on Sept. 14 at Soldier Field.



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