Lovie Smith not sentimental about return to Tampa for Illinois-USF game

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Illinois' game Friday at South Florida is expected to be played as scheduled in Tampa despite disruptions caused by

When Illinois plays on Friday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., coach will be returning to the site of his previous job.

After coaching the Bears for nine seasons, he spent two seasons as the Buccaneers coach, going 8-24 before they fired him in January 2016. He was also the Bucs linebackers coach under from 1996 to 2000.

But you didn't expect Smith to get all mushy and nostalgic, did you?

"I'm just not one of those touchy-feely guys," the typically matter-of-fact Smith said Monday.

Smith still owns a home in Tampa and said he has maintained strong connections to the area. But he wasn't going down memory lane during his weekly news conference.

"This is about Illinois football right now," he said. "I don't have a whole lot of time to think about things that happened in the past. A lot of friends down there in that organization helped me get my ideal job here at the University of Illinois."

The game is expected to be played as scheduled despite disruptions caused by Hurricane Irma.

While Tampa wasn't hit as hard as some areas in Florida, the USF campus has been closed for part of the week. Illinois (2-0) had offered to host the game if necessary.

The No. 22 Bulls (2-0) canceled their game last week at Connecticut because of the storm.

"Nothing has changed," Smith said. "We are preparing the way we always have been. We're planning on getting on the plane Thursday and playing a great game Friday."

Young blood: Illinois started a school-record seven true freshmen in Saturday's 20-7 victory against Western Kentucky, and two of them started side by side on the offensive line.

Larry Boyd moved from guard to tackle, and Alex Palczewski of Prospect earned his first start at guard.

"That's a tough duty," Smith said.

Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee was pleased with their play as the Illini rushed for 193 yards, including 111 by freshman Mike Epstein. The other freshman to start on offense was tight end Louis Dorsey, who had a 20-yard reception.

"Those two guys will probably be starting at those two spots four years," McGee said of Boyd and Palczewski. "They were physical. They didn't do everything right. You're just looking into the future and saying we can start now developing. Let's get them next to each other right now and get them going."

Three freshmen started on defense: ends Bobby Roundtree and Isaiah Gay and cornerback Nate Hobbs. Roundtree had two sacks, Gay had a tackle for a loss and Hobbs tied for the team high with six tackles.

Extra points: Smith wasn't specific but said he expects to see senior cornerback Jaylen Dunlap back on the field "before long." … All 12 players from Florida said their families were safe in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Smith said. … South Florida is the first of three Illini opponents currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. Illinois faces No. 10 Wisconsin on Oct. 28 and travels to No. 8 Ohio State on Nov. 18.

Twitter @sryantribune

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Article Lovie Smith not sentimental about return to Tampa for Illinois-USF game compiled by Original article here

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