It was a muggy August day, and the Illinois football team hadn’t yet left for preseason Camp Rantoul.
Eddie McGee leaned up against the fence outside Memorial Stadium after practice and smiled.
“I would probably say our swag and our intensity are at about a thousand. We’re out here pumpin’ it hard. Everybody’s excited, can’t wait for the season to start, everybody’s excited for camp,” McGee said.
“Everybody’s got that good, chipper feeling.”
Oh, how nine losses in a 12-game season can change the demeanor of a team.
It wasn’t long ago that the Illini had Rose Bowl dreams, yearning to write off a 5-7 season in 2008 as a fluke.
With an offense that was returning a second-team All-Big Ten quarterback and a receiver pegged as a first-round NFL draft pick, the Illini looked poised to best last season’s 5,266 yards, good for second in the Big Ten.
The only major shift for the offense came with new coordinator Mike Schultz, who came to Champaign after helping TCU set school records in points (420) and touchdowns (54).