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What's the latest with Tim Beckman's coaching staff? Recruiting? Former Illini? Ask our longtime college football beat writer Bob Asmussen, who chats at 1 p.m. Mondays. Submit questions any time.
Welcome back to another chat. Signing day is just around the corner.
I went over to Memorial Stadium today for the first time in a few weeks. Lots of cosmetic changes in the team areas, including a cool poster listing the 2013 opponents.
The old photo of the Illinois-Michigan game from 1924 has been removed from the entryway near the locker rooms and replaced by a modern photo of Memorial Stadium. Interesting.
Enough stalling. Time to get to the questions.
With Gilmore gone, where do we stand with the DL recruits?
While you would certainly have wanted Keith Gilmore to stay at Illinois (very good coach who has produced at a high level during his time here), I don't think it will have a major impact on defensive line recruiting in 2013.
One junior college lineman is already here and there are high school players who are firm in their commitments. Down the road, Gilmore's departure could have an impact, but that will be negated when the new coach is hired. I've liked the two additions to the staff so far and think Tim Beckman will have plenty of good options for the defensive line.
All that being said, Gilmore will be missed. He was always easy to talk to and the players really seemed to like him. And look at the talent he has helped send to the NFL. That wasn't by accident.
Hi Bob, I really am not too concerned about the rankings on this recruiting class. What I am concerned about is that most of the guys in this class actually play. In the last twenty years, there has been a big problem with players signing with Illinois but actually playing. There were several reasons for it, but it left big holes in the roster over the years. If everyone in this year's class plays, Tim Beckman will have a much better chance of keeping his job.
Great points. Attrition can really do damage to a program. Some of the Ron Turner and Ron Zook classes had major losses, some after only a couple of years. We've documented that a few times, but it might be a good topic to revisit.
They lose players everywhere, for a lot of reasons. Most of it has to do with playing time and fit with the program. Even the great Alabama classes have been hit by some unexpected losses. When you bring in 25 guys, not everybody is going to make it to the end. But you are right, the more you get on the field, the better your chance for success.
The good thing for incoming players at Illinois is that playing time is available and few jobs have already been determined. For the next year or two that should help Tim Beckman sell Illinois to recruits. Bottom line, everybody wants to play.
Now that Coach Gilmore has departed to follow Coach Koenning to North Carolina, the Illini lose a coach that has made the D-line the strongest part of the program. Can the Illini take any more body shots like this? Is there any reason to be optimistic going into next year? Even the few nice players giving oral commitments are unlikely to have an impact any time soon.
Bob from Wheaton,
In my two-plus decades covering Illinois football, the one thing I have learned is that you never know what will happen next. There were years when I thought the team was going to be dreadful and it ended up going to bowl games. There were other years when I thought the team was set up for success, like 2012, and it didn't work.
I like the addition of Bill Cubit on offense. I think he has a good system and a plan to make Illinois more productive. He will get more out of the players than they even realize is possible. Does that mean Illinois wins the Big Ten in 2013? Probably not. But it could be a competitive team.
The schedule is tricky. The games against Washington and Cincinnati won't be easy for Illinois, though I think the change in coaches with the Bearcats will have a negative impact there.
Bob, it seems like you are doing well, just keep up your exercise program and diet. No elbow exercises at the Esquire (e.g. beer)! My comments and questions have a somewhat negative tone.
1. How come no listings of any of the ballplayers participating, prior to the game, in the college star games, e.g. Senior Bowl? Did the Illini Sports Information department not send anything out? Saw Buchanan block a field goal in Senior, also Justin Green played in a game in Montgomery, AL. What's with not promoting the players after their great careers?
2. What is your take on the Gilmore departure? Does Beckman have any real people skills in dealing with his assistants?
3. How does Aaron Bailey fit into the new oc's schemes that emphasize passing? I just do not see it.
4. What is your over/under on games won next year? Please explain.
5. At yesterday's basketball game, I saw an Orange Crush member wearing a giant orange, foam rubber cowboy hat. Do you know where I can get one of those?
I will follow orders. My doctors have been happy to find out that I'm a non-drinker. That helps with some of the health challenges.
Illinois has been promoting the seniors in the all-star games, but I will be honest, there are so many that it is hard to keep track of them all. As the draft gets closer, we will update you on what everybody has done to this point.
I think Keith Gilmore saw an opportunity to work with Vic Koenning and took it. Plus. Carolina pays a lot. I don't think it is an anti-Beckman statement as much as a pro-Koenning/Disch statement.
I know that Aaron Bailey's high school coach thinks he can run any kind of offense. Good enough for me. No question he has a strong arm. Bill Cubit will help him refine his skills.
Over/under on wins: 5. I think Illinois will have a chance to reverse the games against Indiana and Purdue. I think it will take one more game in the Big Ten and go 2-2 in the nonconference. And I think the games will be closer than in 2012.
I will check on the giant hat. Sounds like a perfect birthday present idea for your family members.
I see Gilmore now is gone, Butkus has now had two jobs these guys seem to me that could not wait to get away from Beckman! Yet the first guy who should of been fired Banks is still employed, Illini Football is a complete mess.
Like I always like to say: Let's see how it plays out. I was told that Luke Butkus would likely be moving on after the season and it happened. He wanted back in the NFL and that has happened. Going back to college coaching, with recruiting responsibilities and everything, isn't easy after getting a taste of the NFL.
Hard to blame Keith Gilmore for going to North Carolina to work with former bosses.
How are you doing this new year? I hope great. I tryed to tell you last year and you do it again, the champ should be #1 in your 2013 predictions. You better watch my neighbors the BAMERS will be calling you again. I want to know one thing is the sky falling on the Illinois football program? Take care and best of health to you this year. STUMP - from the "birthplace of the king " Elvis>>>TUPELO,MS. PS- I may have to adopt Ole Miss this year after next Wednesdays recruiting class. It is amazing how two different coaches/programs can go in first year tenures of coaching.
Great to hear from you and thanks for the kind words. I am doing well.
I have also learned to be mindful of Alabama fans. They like their team a lot. Hard to blame them. And Alabama will be high on my list next year, though I am probably going with another Big Ten team as No. 1 (not Michigan, the basketball school).
I really like the work being done by Hugh Freeze. I think he is going to have a tremendous amount of success in Oxford.
After hearing about the impressive names at the junior day this past week, are the better recruits really interested when they com to events like these or are they making the rounds? Have you heard how things went or what the players were saying after they left? Appreciate the time!
I don't think a player takes the time to visit a campus for a Junior Day unless there is genuine interest. They know there will be a recruiting pitch and it would be hard to fake it for several hours.
I liked the list of players I heard were here. And I think the coaches continue to pursue top talent. We will see in the coming months whether or not it pays off in terms of commitments, but it sounds like Illinois has the right people involved.
The lifeblood of a sucessful program is recruiting. What effect do you think the departures of Beatty, Butkus, and now Gilmore will have? What effect do you think the additions of Cupit and Bridge will have? With there history, will any new areas for recruiting open up for the Illini? Will it help having more experienced coaches in recruiting? Who will own the very important Chicago area as their recruting assignment? We get less impact from there than Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, ND, Northwestern as it is now. Why can't we be THE destination school rather than the BYPASS school?
My guess is that losing Butkus could have a longer term impact on Illinois recruiting because of his ties to the Chicago area. I think Illinois needs to continue to push in the city and the suburbs. Butkus had connections, but even those take time to turn into players.
Chicago has to be a priority area and it is. But I think the turnover of staff at Illinois over the past decade or so has been a negative. Iowa keeps sending the same people in. Northwestern is starting to establish some consistency. And everybody listens when Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame call.
Bill Cubit has recruited Florida during his career and I think that will be a good thing for Illinois. He could help bring some players from one of the three best recruiting states in the country. The impact might be greater next year than this year because of the late start.
Bob: I guess everyone is wondering about DL replacements...any rumors? Have you bumped into any of the recruits that are already on campus? Any conversations or impressions of Cubit? Thanks .
That hire is a couple weeks away. I would look toward the MAC, where Tim Beckman has hired from in the past. Also, Ted Gill just left as DL coach at Michigan State. Maybe he will be an option after his fine work with the Spartans.
I haven't bumped into any of the new players, but hope to in the coming weeks. I will send along my impressions.
Bill Cubit came across very well in his opening press conference. Since then, we haven't seen him. But people I talk to in the program think highly of him and the new offensive line coach.
There was some discussion last fall about how was worse off in the short run and the long run, Penn St. or Illinois. Now that we are seeing how the recruiting classes are shaping, what is your take. By the way, I say this is a no-brainer -- Penn St. has 40 years of football tradition and Illinois has little. Even if Penn St. can only can sign 15 players per year, we could probably safely say that 12 of those 15 are better than the players Illinois will sign. Penn St. has banded together and will be somewhat competitive for the next 4 years and then back to where they were - powerful. I wish I could say the same for Illinois.
West Coast Illini,
I don't think we've seen the full impact of the penalties at Penn State. But I also think Bill O'Brien showed that the program can survive what is a really harsh penalty.
The key now for Penn State is holding on to O'Brien. Sounds like he almost got away to the NFL. If that happens in the next year or so, it will be a major setback. But I think he was an upgrade on the previous staff.
All of the Big Ten schools are hoping ot make up ground on Penn State. It's possible, but the window is closing.'
Bob, what do you see as the NFL draft prospects for this year's seniors?
I think Terry Hawthorne and Michael Buchanan will be the first two to go. Both have tremendous potential and will look good in workouts. The key for them is staying healthy.
I think Akeem Spence has a chance to go in the middle rounds. Recent success of Illinois defensive linemen will help his cause.
I want to see what happens with Graham Pocic and Hugh Thornton. Both have shown versatility as offensive linemen, which the NFL loves. And again the recent success of Illini linemen does them some good.
I have to say I am a little disappointed in Luke Butkus' loyalty to anyone. If recruits really look at it they have to think the same. If those relationships are important, how much faith would they have to think that he was going to be around long anyway? I kind of feel that Illinois was used by him and his "glad to be home" speech.
I'm not sure Luke knew exactly what college coaching would demand. It is different than being in the NFL, which is obviously where he wants to be.
I do think it is unfortunate it didn't work out for him here. I hope that doesn't keep another former player from coming back. No two cases are the same.
Of all the DL coaching candidates mentioned on various boards, who are the ones are you most intrigued about?
I'd start with Ted Gill. I'm not sure what happened with him at Michigan State, where he certainlly was a success. Unless there is something weird going on there, he would seem to be an easy first call.
There are oodles of great coaches out there. I think it is important that those doing the hiring look beyond the power conferences. And I think Tim Beckman will do that in this case.
I'm going to cut it off for today. Thanks for all of your great great questions. I'll talk to you next week.