Ask N-G college football beat writer Bob Asmussen about the Illinois training camp
Welcome back to another Camp Rantoul chat. Hard to believe, but the session is down to two days and three practices. I will be here until the bitter end.
I'm starting to get a feeling that this won't be the last Camp Rantoul. All of the coaches have been very positive about the place. I think a one-week version next year has a good chance of happening.
Sorry to hear about the Honey Badger being dismissed from the LSU football team. That is a blow to Les Miles' team. By the way, Graham Pocic's dad told me earlier in the week that the LSU athletic program is getting its own food court. That doesn't sound legal, does it? Wonder if they have a Taco Bell.
Enough jibber-jabber, let's get to the questions.
Bob: Thanks for putting yourself out there everyday...we appreciate it !! Can you give us your top three places to eat when we come to the games? Have you seen Hawthoirne or Green catch a pass yet? Thx.
If you are talking top three places in Champaign, I'm going with Papa Del's, The Esquire and Courier Cafe. Those are my personal favorites. But there are oodles of great places to eat in C-U. You can't turn a corner without spotting a restaurant.
I have not seen Terry Hawthorne or Justin Green catch a pass yet. I assume that will happen after the team returns to Champaign for workouts next week. We have a big story running on Hawthorne in Sunday's paper. Hope you have a chance to check it out.
Thanks for the great coverage of Illini Football. I haven't read or hear much about Karras. With a great family background and the shortage on the O line, I wondered how he is doing and his change to play this year.
Thanks again and keep up the good work. GO ILLINI!!!
Going into Camp Rantoul, I would have guessed he would be the starting right guard. But that apparently isn't the case. After what I thought was a very solid spring for Ted Karras, he seems to have slipped back just a bit. Today, when the coaches did some shuffling at guard, it was Alex Hill who moved to the first team and not Karras. That was a little bit surprising.
But I don't think he has given up and I think the line is a long way from being settled. My guess is that Karras can still win a starting job. And even if he doesn't, he will be one of the first players off the bench.
To this point, I have been very impressed with the work being done by Luke Butkus. And that is not a surprised. He has learned from some good people and carries the same intensity he had as a player.
Bob: Congrats on your gig with the Decatur folks...can you elaborate?
Thanks for asking. They certainly didn't pick me because of my looks. Unless they are trying to appeal to the sympathetic viewer.
The show is called "Inside the Illini, Big Ten College Football." It will air each week at 10 a.m. Saturday, often right before the Illinois kickoff.
The cast includes WAND's Matt Loveless and Steve Kelly and Brian Barnhart from WDWS. Not sure what I'm doing in there other than trying to avoid saying swear words.
We will actually tape the show at BW3 in Savoy each Wednesday. If you are ever in the area, feel free to stop by. It will be at lunchtime.
Can you see such a situation develop with players leaving and prospects not being interested in PSU that the program will suffer more than anyone could have imagined? Its just amazing how Kiffin and USC can prosper with their sanctions! I smell something fishy! Don't think they were hit hard enough. Same with Ohio State! Also do you think this coaching staff will make better in game and in season adjustments to be one step ahead of their competition?
I really see Penn State sinking to 2-10 levels and staying there for a long time. I know Bill O'Brien has made a commitment to stay, but after about the third or fourth year out of a bowl, he will probably start looking around. I'm curious how the fans are going to react. They will stick with the team a year or two, but I think by Year 3 and Year 4, the crowds will dwindle.
I think Southern Cal got hit pretty hard. I don't think Ohio State got hit hard enough. But compared to Penn State, everybody else looks good.
I think the new coaching staff at Illinois will try to be aggressive in fixing problems during games and in the season. But the question is are there options for them to try? That will be the big question. And remember this staff is together for the first time. There is a learning curve there that can't be ignored.
Bob, thanks for being our eyes and ears at Camp Rantoul. We've heard some worrying things about the receiving corps - there seems to have been a case of the dropsies going around. What's your assessment to this point of the wideouts? Do we have any playmakers?
No question, the receivers struggled the first couple of days catching the ball. But that problem seems to have corrected itself. They were doing a much better job today across the board.
I think the wideouts are continuing to get better. And they have three weeks to get it figured out.
There is one big-time playmaker: Jon Davis. He is catching everything and looks strong and fast. I called it the other day: 60 catches. 900 yards, 8 TDs.
His dad was at practice today and pointed out how much stronger he is compared to a year ago. You can see that, especially when he blocks or gets hit. Guys seem to be bouncing off him.
Based on what you've seen so far, what's the most obvious difference between Beckman practices and Zook practices? And what is the most important difference, in terms of how you think it might affect game-time performance?
I think the biggest difference is that there is a greater sense of fun. All of the little competitions Tim Beckman has seem to be a good thing for the players. Throwing Gatorade bottles from the cold tubs into a trash can? Don't remember seeing that during the Zook era.
I think the most important difference is the way the coaches tend to lean toward the positive. Oh sure, they are yelling at times, but it isn't the constant bombardment you saw last year. What the team lacked the second half of the 2011 season was confidence. I think the current coaches are aware of that and are determined to not let it happen again.
Happy Friday, thanks for a great week of coverage.
What do you think of Beckman showing the team the Ray Eliot speech and a highlight reel of Illini greats? Any feedback from the players? Do you think they'll make those clips available to the public? I'd think it'd be a great recruiting tool and way to fire up the fan base on fightingillini.com?
Do you remember Ron Zook ever embracing the history of the program like this? I recall Zook bringing in a lot of his old buddies and telling guys like Jeff George he wasn't interested in their help. Am I totally off base here?
We didn't get a chance to talk to the players today, but I will try to ask the next time I get a chance.
I think any time you can bring back the past, it helps your program. I wish I was in Champaign when Ray Eliot was still alive. Other than Red Grange, he is the one former Illini I would really like to talk to. I will check on the availability of the clips, though it seems like I have seen some before.
I don't think Ron Zook embraced the history of the Illinois program the way Tim Beckman has. Beckman has reached out to former players and will have them talk to the team this season. And he hired Mike Bellamy to help with alumni relations. Very smart move. The more often you can have Jeff George and Dana Howard and Simeon Rice and Kevin Hardy on campus, the better it is for the Illinois program.
I am going to cut it off for today. I'll talk to you Saturday.
Thanks for all of your help and interest.