Verdis Brown snapped his finger to indicate the immediacy of which he had to learn.

When he switched from the defensive line to the offensive line — a position he played in high school, including his senior year at prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. — on the Illinois football team, there was little time to do a deep dive into the position.

He made his way through the season before the COVID-19 pandemic turned the sports world on its head. Players were sent home. Spring practices canceled. Life, in that moment, was virtual. Zoom meetings took the place of in-person practices. In fact, it’s exactly what Brown needed. That time helped Brown — a four-star prospect and a major recruiting win for head coach Lovie Smith in the Class of 2018 after de-committing from Florida State —win out a battle for the vacant right guard position on an experienced offensive line.

“He’s trimmed down, he’s moving much better,” Offensive Coordinator Rod Smith said before the Wisconsin game. “He’s a big, strong, physical kid anyway. Just been really excited with his progress. I think Coach (Bob) McClain has done a great job with him. From a fundamental standpoint, he’s night and day compared to what he was in the spring. I’m excited about him.”

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