Wide receiver Millines suspended from Illini football

At a news conference Monday, Illinois football head coach Tim Beckman announced that wide receiver Darius Millines has been suspended from the team for breaking team rules. Beckman did not elaborate on the circumstances of Millines’ suspension, stating only that his status will be re-evaluated in May, following the spring season.

Millines, who is preparing for his senior season next fall, caught 32 passes for 319 yards last season for the Illini. He missed two games because of injury, recovering from a torn labrum in his shoulder. The injury would have kept him off the field during the spring had the suspension not occurred.

“We hate to do it,” Beckman said. “But we’re going to make sure we’re doing things the proper way. We have team policies here and we expect them to be followed.”

Millines will continue to rehab and attend tutoring sessions. When asked if he expects to see Millines in an Illini uniform next fall, recently hired offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said: “That’s up to him. He’s got to figure it out.”

Millines’ 2012 statistics were not particularly memorable. But considering Illinois’ leading wide receiver, Ryan Lankford, only amassed 469 yards and five touchdowns, Millines impact was significant.

Talking about practice 

Millines’ suspension comes one day before Illinois’ spring practice season begins. Illinois will have its first of 15 practices Monday, culminating with the spring game April 12.

In addition to the Millines suspension, Beckman announced former quarterback Miles Osei has been permanently moved to wide receiver. Osei played in all 12 games last year, splitting time between quarterback and wide receiver. He caught six passes for 50 yards and threw for 79 yards on eight completions.

Cubit named Osei, Justin Hardee, Spencer Harris, Steve Hull (who is also new to the receiver position, having spent the last three years at safety) and Ryan Lankford as the wide receivers he expects to step up and be heavy contributors.   

Cubit has not seen quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase throw yet, except on tape. He said it’s going to be a while before the offense gets accustomed to his system. As the head coach at Western Michigan the previous eight seasons, Cubit’s offense was known for its up-tempo style and its high-volume passing attack. In a four-win season in 2012, the Broncos passed for 3,477 yards, more than the Illini gained rushing and passing combined.

For the Illini to improve, much of the burden will rest on Scheelhaase’s shoulders.

“The biggest adjustment will be for the quarterbacks,” Cubit said. “Instead of just calling plays from the sidelines, he’s got to be a coach out there on the field.”

Filling holes

Beckman said the No. 1 goal for spring practice is to create a physical atmosphere. Tight end Jon Davis, linebacker Jonathan Brown and defensive back Earnest Thomas will have limited contact because of injury. All three saw significant time on the field in 2012.

The biggest question mark for Illinois heading into the spring season is its secondary; all four starters from last season have graduated. Beckman expects Thomas, Eaton Spence and V’Angelo Bentley to have major contributions next season.

Additionally, the center position is still up for grabs. Tony Durkin is the projected starter, but Joe Spencer and Jake Feldmeyer are expected to compete for the position. 

The Illini will practice three times a week for the next six weeks, with one week off for spring break. Five practices will be open to the public, including Saturday at noon. Beckman said he expects as many as 70 high school prospects to be visiting Saturday. 

“This is what we come for: to coach football,” Beckman said. “If we would have ended up winning (last year), you’re still excited about stepping onto that football field. I’m excited about stepping out there tomorrow.”

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