Tim Beckman did not have of his many assistant coaches around the Illinois football offices on Monday and Tuesday.
Illinois took advantage of its first bye week of the season by sending the majority of its assistants out on the road to recruit before Illinois practiced on Wednesday afternoon for the first time since losing 34-24 to Washington last Saturday at Soldier Field.
"I think people are pleased with the direction," said Tim Banks, Illinois' defensive coordinator who spent the first two days this week out recruiting. "I think they can see that our kids are playing hard. It's a different attitude, a different mind-set. They believe the program is headed in the right direction, and it is. Obviously we want to continue to win games, but as long as we're able to put a product out there that we can make the state of Illinois happy with, I think we'll be satisfied."
For Banks, whose recruiting territory extends to the north part of Chicago, Indianapolis, southern Indiana, the western part of Florida, and Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, it was his first time out on the road during the evaluation period that started Sept. 1.
"They don't let me out of my cage much," he said with a laugh. "It was good. If you look around the country, you know all the good teams have what? Good players. We've got to continue to develop the kids we got and continue to go out and try to find good players to come in and help us continue to build this program. You've got to recruit. It's the lifeblood."
Illinois is 2-1 for the second straight year under Beckman, but the vibe around the program is different than it was a year ago.
A surprising win against Cincinnati and not getting blown out by Washington are two key factors.
Two key factors Illinois will try to use to its advantage when it comes to recruiting.
"After playing up in Soldier Field and being able to have recruits at that football game, and not able to talk to them, but have them there, and the coaching staff to go out Monday and Tuesday and spend a lot of time in Chicago and St. Louis and other areas, it's huge for us to be able to do that right now," Beckman said. "You look for players now that you might not have been looking at prior to."
Finding another running back in the Class of 2014 — Chicago Mt. Carmel's Matt Domer is the only commit at that position so far — is a primary position Illinois is honing in on, along with more help along the defensive line and offensive line.
The lack of depth at defensive tackle is a concern for Beckman, too.
Vontrell Williams (foot) and Abe Cajuste (ankle) have been limited because of injuries, essentially reducing the defensive tackle rotation to starters Austin Teitsma and Jake Howe, with Teko Powell and Robbie Bain, a converted offensive lineman, backing Teitsma and Howe up.
Two other offensive linemen in Dallas Hinkhouse and Christian DiLauro, two Class of 2013 signees, are seeing time this week during practice at defensive tackle out of necessity, Beckman said.
"No, it's not permanent," Beckman said. "It's just something we want to see if it can help us later on because there is a depth issue in the middle of our line."
Beckman also indicated Class of 2013 recruit Jarrod Clements will likely see more time at defensive tackle than defensive end and the plan is to redshirt defensive tackle Bryce Douglas, another Class of 2013 signee.
So far, Illinois has one offensive line commit (center Nick Allegretti from Lincoln-Way East) and one defensive line commit (Tito Odenigbo from Centerville, Ohio) in the Class of 2014.
With 12 commits lined up already, and with the Class of 2014 expected to eventually land 16 or 17 players, Illinois will be selective with its few remaining scholarships moving forward, but feels it's in a better recruiting place than it's been since Beckman arrived.
"This year is such a limited numbers that we have," Beckman said. "We don't have a bunch of numbers. We've got quite a few that are committed already. I feel comfortable with those guys we're committed to. I know it is because of the way we've played the last three weeks and the competitiveness that we've played with. I also think the relationships that the coaches have made with the people throughout the state has really started to pay off for us as we move the program forward."