Talk with football beat writer Bob Asmussen after the Illinois-Penn State game
Welcome to another postgame chat. We've got a lot of questions in the hopper. I'm going to answer a few, take a short break to write a story, then come back for some more.
Thanks for your interest.
How hurt is Uh-oh?
Seen him on the sideline a few times
He suffered an ankle injury. They don't believe it is serious, but might not know for a few days. Sprained ankles can be tricky as you know.
Why do we not go down the field? We did a few times in the first half and had some success.
That's a question that is going to get asked a lot. What I've been told is that teams are trying to take the deep ball away from Illinois, knowing that it's a strength. They are trying to force Illinois to beat them in the middle of the field, meaning Juice Williams has to be accurate on his throws. Until he starts hitting guys in stride like Daryll Clark did today, the deep ball is going to be hard to complete.
do you think the RB by commitee thing might be hurting the continuity? I mean a guy can be having a good drive, and than come back out on the field for a while.
The coaches use the running backs according to situations, though Daniel Dufrene is more of an every down back. I think opponents will figure out the tendencies and make that work against Illinois.
I would like to see more of Mikel Leshoure and Justin Green in the backfield, but they seem to be fourth and fifth on the list.
The ABC announcers sound like they were on top of the reality for the Illinois defense. You wonder what a fifth year of Brit Miller would have meant to the defense. Remember, he played as a freshman in 2005 when a redshirt might have made more sense.
what must this offense do to get going? There is to much talent to be putting up these type of numbers.
I know the defense has struggled, but it cant be all blamed on them. They cant be on the field for 11-12 minutes of a quarter and not get tired.
I have always thought that Juice Williams was good for the Illinois offense. But I think it might be time to give Eddie McGee a start with the idea that Juice can come in in relief. Maybe watching from the sidelines would help him. I would say some sort of shakeup is called for at this point.
What the heck happened to our offense this year?
I don't think there is an answer to that question. Juice Williams is going to get the blame, but it isn't all him. Some of it goes to the coaches, the other players and the expectations raised by all of returning parts.
Why did they not renew Tom Sims' contract? This line has regressed under Gilmore. Brent and Pilcher have regressed and Liuget isn't making the leap everyone thought he would.
That was a decision made by Ron Zook. Honestly, I think he was looking to create an opening on the defensive side of the ball to pursue Penn State coach Larry Johnson as defensive coordinator. It didn't happen.
It was worked out for Tom Sims, who is coaching at undefeated Kansas. He is a good guy and I'm not surprised he landed on his feet.
When do the rose colored glasses come off, the excuses stop, and we begin rebuilding for next year?
About the time a bowl game is out of the question. That could be as early as a month from now.
After today's game, Ron Zook sounded willing to start playing more younger guys. I think that will happen starting next week.
Dating back to the second half of last season it seems this offense has no answer to a blitzing defense. We moved the ball at will against PSU's prevent at the end of the first half and then stalled when they blitzed. Is it play calling or is it the players inability to pick up the blitz?
Like with everything else in this complicated game, a combination of both. It starts with the quarterback being able to get rid of the ball quickly. But he needs help. Until you show a team they shouldn't blitz you, they will. Kurt Kittner kept it from happening. Juice Williams hasn't been able to.
Honestly, how many wins can we expect this season? I say if we win more than two games (two games total, not two more wins), it will be a surprise.
I have heard that from other people as well. The first item on the agenda for the Illini is to get to No. 2. Will that come next week? Not many would bet on it.
Did we any real signs of life today? Do we have any chance against Michigan State?
I think the first half went pretty well for Illinois defensively. Play like that against Michigan State next week and the game will be close. But the second half, especially the third quarter, has to be discouraging. Illinois has a chance next week, but it isn't a great one.
Isn't it clearly time to get rid of Schultz? The play calling has been dreadful. The hire didn't work out, Zook needs to recognize this and cut his loses.
Not to be an offensive coordinator sympathizer, but he has only coached four games. It isn't like he wants the offense to struggle. He calls the plays and it's up to the offense to execute. I don't think anybody should be surprised that there have been problems in the transition. But it has gone on longer than many expected. Schultz isn't running the plays, only calling them. He needs better execution from the players too.
I better take a little break and write my story for Sunday's paper. The copy editors and the boss like that. I'll be back in about 15 minutes or so to get to more questions.
I'm back. Sorry about that, but I want a couple of bylines in the paper on Sunday.
I hear that McGee will be starting next week. Why did they decide to do this? In my opinion, changing the quarterback isn't going to change the pathetic play calling strategy.
I haven't heard that, but it wouldn't surprise me. I think when your offense isn't working, you have to do something new. The guy throwing the passes is the first place you will check.
If Eddie McGee produces, and he might as the starter, there will be questions about why he wasn't put in earlier. I never thought there would be a QB controversy this season.
Juice and Benn seemed to hook up there in the 2nd quarter and we looked to be in a rhythm. So why did we go to the run after that take the ball out of our 2 play makers hands?
Ron Zook said that time was on their side and he wanted to run the normal offense. That question was asked in the postgame.
I think a permanent two-minute attack might work.
Unfortunately the time for questions has passed. They're just not very good this year. I expected them to be good, and I think you did too. They're just not. I think they even pretty much played up to their potential today. We're watching the beginning of the end of the Ron Zook era, unfortunately. It will be a long and painful deathwatch, but it is inevitable.
Thanks for the comments.
When you tell the media that you are confident in your scheme/philosophy/play call, what exactly are you referring to? Can you tell us your schemes and philosophy and if they do not work, why are there no changes?
Every coach has a set of ideas they base their teams around. Ron Zook's defensive philosophy is to force the opponent to grind out long drives, figuring they will make a mistake that forces a turnover or third and long. It works when you've got the players to make it work. Or the experience to make it work. On offense, Zook seems to favor ball control over hurryup. And he wants to be able to run the ball. The defense starts with him and the offensive idea starts with him, though the scheme itself is a combination of several coaches.
Bob, it appears that Juice is not on his game, if Zook decides to go with another QB, please ask him why not give Charest a shot....McGee is erratic at best and maybe this team needs a new shot in the arm.
Ron Zook mentioned that he considered Jacob Charest during the game. I believe it. I think Eddie will be given the first chance to try to fix the offense, but that Charest might also be in the picture too.
What adjustments did you anticipate PSU makeing offensively for the 2nd half? And how did you prepare your defense for those anticipated changes?
I think the Nittany Lions ran their basic offense better at an Illinois defense that got back on its heels. The first big gain of the second half seemed to deflate the Illini. There was both a mental and physical toll. Against a good team, Illinois might not have an answer.
Bob, do you think the team showed any improvement at al today and do you think coaching changes are on the horizon? I recall asking you that after the Missouri game and that your response was, if we got to 1-4 it was at least distinctly possible.
I thought the offense was a little better but still much room for improvement. And I was more strongly for a coaching change earlier than I am now, although I still think one should probably be made.
I look forward to your comments!
Is there any chance at all that we cut our losses and fire zook? Hopefully before the season ends?
Clemens and Jeff H,
I'll start with you Clemens. Though there is major disappointment internally, I don't think there is any way Illinois would make a change during the season, unless something happened that was scandalous.
I think there was some improvement. But that was tempered by Penn State's domination in the second half.
I think you will both have to see how the season plays out. Ron Zook led the team to the Rose Bowl two years ago. The folks in charge here realize that.
If it becomes clear Illinois will not make a bowl should heads roll in the coaching ranks? all or some before the end of the season or after the end of the season.
Nothing will happen before the end of the season. And frankly, I don't anticipate changes after that. Possible? Of course. But I don't think it's likely.
Exactly who calls the offensive and defensive plays and who has the final say?
Mike Schultz calls the offensive plays and Curt Mallory calls the defensive plays. But Ron Zook has input, especially on defense.
Why won't the coach put in the younger quaterbacks to get get them some game time reps? Thanks
I think that might be a possibility as the season goes on. But I don't see the coaches taking the redshirt off of Nathan Scheelhaase. He will be much better in 2013 than in 2009.
I was shocked to read this morning (Herb Gould, Sun-Times) that Juice Williams sent encouraging text messages to Daryll Clark after PSU's loss to Iowa last week. Yes, Williams and Clark are friends, but this reduces our competitive advantage.
How will this be perceived by the Team, Fans, Coaches? How will this affect the squad we field against MSU?
BTW, these chats are great! Thanks for the hard work!
They got to know each other during the summer at a camp. I thought it was a bit unusual. I don't know if you realize it, but Arrelious Benn has a texting relationship with Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. They became buddies during recruiting.
Probably, Juice and Daryll should have taken the week off. But I don't think it was an awful thing. They are still students/humans.
Why don't they just fire him now?