Camp Rantoul chat today!

Camp Rantoul chat today!

Monday, August 6, 2012 - 1:00pm

College football beat writer Bob Asmussen has found his happy place: Camp Rantoul. Each day this week, he'll take your questions at 1 p.m. Is Nathan Scheelhaase still the starter? Is Tim Beckman yelling a lot? Are there any Penn State assistants on the grounds? Anything goes. Submit questions any time and he'll be sure to respond.

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm
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Welcome to the first of a weeklong series of Camp Rantoul chats. I have to admit it was a bit strange out there today not seeing Ron Zook and some of the other coaches. Tim Beckman is the fourth head coach I have covered during my time as football beat writer.

Enough jibber-jabber, time to get to the questions. Thanks for participating.

KB wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Do any of the true freshman look particulary good or have caught your eye for any reason?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm
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I only got to see half of them during the morning practice. The rest will work out this afternoon, so I will respond again tomorrow in the chat.

But of the guys I saw this morning, running back LaKeith Walls stood out because of his size. He is listed at 6-2 and might be even taller. I think he will be one of the young guys who plays this season. I am curious about the other freshman tailbacks, but none have the size of Walls.

I should have watched Ryan Frain this morning, but there was too much going on. I will check on him Tuesday.

Mike at work wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm


After seeing the return and coverage teams struggle last year, what are some things the new staff will do to improve those units?


Bob Asmussen wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm
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One thing they have done that makes a lot of sense is that they have made almost every player on the team available to the coaches of each special team. So, you will see Michael Buchanan, Jonathan Brown, Graham Pocic and Hugh Thornton on at least one special team. That is smart. You have to get the players to see the big picture and realize that nobody is too important to help out on special teams. If they have pro aspirations, and they all do, then special teams will be a part of that. Might as well get started on it now.

I also think the approach will be a little bit more aggressive. I think this staff wants to attack on special teams, which should mean more long returns and the potential for more blocked kicks. But it also raises the danger level too. That's a tradeoff you have to be willing to make.

Konnie wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Thanks for having these chats.  They are very informative.

Can you provide what you feel are the pros and cons of Camp Rantoul versus staying on campus for the first couple of weeks of practice.




Bob Asmussen wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm
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Pros: Everything. Cons: Nothing.

OK, maybe that's a bit too easy. The pros are the proximity of the facilities. There is no way in Champaign for the team to practice, eat and sleep in the same area, which they can do here. The camp atmosphere has to be great for team building. The fans who come to practice, as opposed to a closed session, show the players that somebody cares. I hear the food is excellent. The rooms are fine. Rantoul rocks. Ott's is here, which is great for the families of the players. There are few if any distractions for the players.

Cons: They aren't at home for a week. To some that might be bad. To me, it breaks up the monotony of camp. Can't think of much else.

STUMPWALSH wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Bob After seeing the new staff what is the first thing you noticed different from teams past at Rantoul.  I will be curious to hear how the players feel going into this season. Thanks Stump

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm
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Great to hear from you. The addition of music to practice was certainly different. I liked it, though I didn't recognize many of the songs. I've really got to update my playlist, though the Boss never gets old. (Jim Rossow is a big Phil Collins fan. Paul Klee likes the Carpenters. Loren, of course, is all Sinatra and Dean Martin).

There was an increase in tempo. And you did hear some language that might require earmuffs if you bring the youngsters. Then again, I have heard few coaches who swore as much as Paul Petrino.

The shortened workout was interesting. In these early days, I don't think Tim Beckman wants to wipe his team out. That's smart.

Shamous wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm

The great Bobbini - welcome to another season.

First off, when you see the guys walking around Rantoul/out on the field this morning, who jumps out at you as guys who took the offseason seriously?  Who's passing the Bob Asmussen eyeball test?

With the rumors about Ryan Klachko transferring to U of I, do you think he would contribute in 2013 if true? 

Last question -- was watching some clips from the Illinois/Northwestern game yesterday.  Spencer Harris had some huge plays.  Was that a result of Northwestern's defense being awful or is Harris a guy who could become a major contributor at the Big Ten level?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm
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I hate to give you the usual suspects, but Akeem Spence, Terry Hawthorne, Michael Buchanan and Jonathan Brown looked like NFL players. Spence looks like he is in the best shape of his life and the other three look bigger and stronger. I'm going to write something crazy now: two of those guys could end up being first-round picks in 2013. Clip and save, if that is possible off your computer. Don't hurt your computer.

I understand Ryan is gone from Nebraska. It would be very good for Illinois to reconnect with Ken Leonard and SH-G with a player of his ability. They aren't going to stop having great teams in Springfield. With the upcoming departures, Ryan could help next season. I will let you know what I hear.

That's funny, I was watching the same game. Spencer Harris has plenty of talent and I think he fits well into this offense. I think he could be a 40-plus catch guy, maybe more. And because of his size, he will be a target when Illinois gets near the end zone.

Marcus wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm



Thanks for the great coverage!

With a new coaching staff in place what are the top 3 things you are looking for them to aacomplish?

Who do you think will be the surprise of camp?

I saw last week you mentioned a blue helmet, where can we get a look at that?

Finally what do you think will be the most different about a Beckman camp vs a Zook camp?


Bob Asmussen wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm
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Hope all is well in Colorado.

No. 1, I want to see how the offense works and which players fit into it best. No. 2, the offense line is a big question mark and the number of players being moved makes it even more interesting. No. 3, which somebody mentioned earlier, is special teams. Can Ryan Frain kick field goals? Who will be the punter? Can Illinois return a punt for more than 5 yards?

I am going to go with Jon Davis. The guy has the potential to help the team in so many different ways and I think his talents will be showcased in the new offense. When you don't have the quality of depth you need at receiver, you need to find other options and I think Davis is a big part of that answer.

I'm going to try to hunt down a blue helmet and email it to you. I've seen a few on line, but I'm not sure if they are the right ones.

Besides this one spending less time in Rantoul, I think you will see all of the players more heavily involved during practice. I didn't notice anybody standing around this morning. Everybody was always doing something. That wasn't always the case during Ron Zook's camps.



Bob Asmussen wrote on August 06, 2012 at 1:08 pm
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I'm going to cut it off for today. Feel free to fire more questions at me on Tuesday. We'll be here all week.

If you have time, check out my Twitter feed @BobAsmussen