August 8 Camp Rantoul Chat

August 8 Camp Rantoul Chat

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - 1:00pm

Is playing at Soldier Field a good thing? Why does Asmussen have Michigan No. 1 in his preseason AP Top 25 (it's due Wednesday)? What's the biggest position battle at Camp Rantoul? Ask N-G college football beat writer Bob Asmussen, who is chatting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 12:08 pm
Profile Picture

Welcome back to another Camp Rantoul chat. It has been a busy couple of days around here with a football player making a commitment (Chicago Simeon linebacker Reggie Spearman), another making a visit (former Springfield SH-G All-Stater Ryan Klachko) and a boiler order after the water main broke.

We can get into any or all of that in the next half hour. Time to answer some questions.

StLIllini11 wrote on August 08, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Do you know if the Big Ten Network be doing a special on each team again this year before the season? I know last year they had a bus and also set up an onsite studio desk at camp Rantoul. Have you heard if they will be there again some day this week?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Profile Picture


Yes, the BTN crew is again hitting the road to visit every campus, starting with Thursday's stop at Iowa.

Unfortunately, Howard Griffith and pals won't be at Camp Rantoul. Instead, they will visit Illinois on Aug. 18, which is a session that will be closed to the public and media.

Because they basically work for the conference, the BTN announcers will get great access to the Illini and other teams they visit. I will check in with Howard after he leaves Illinois to see what he thinks about his alma mater. He is usually pretty optimistic about Illinois, but he also tries to be objective. If he sees flaws, he will talk about them.

The series is worth watching for Big Ten fans. You will get a sense for where everybody is at in terms of preparation for the season. The Leaders Division preview show airs at 7 p.m. Aug. 29.

Jim From Mis-ery wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm


   It's obvious that Hawthorne is your no. 1 .......(on days left). Looking at the graduation after this year, we are going to get gutted. Time to have a great year and  a good bowl..........then recruit,recruit, and recruit! Go ILLINI  !!

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Profile Picture


That is a very good guess. Just like Michael Buchanan would be a good guess. And Jonathan Brown. And Akeem Spence and Graham Pocic. So many options.

I did talk to Nathan Scheelhaase's dad, Nate, the other day and told him we didn't go with Nathan because we wanted somebody other than the obvious. He was cool with that and also likes the way the offense suits his son.

Illinois is definitely going to take some big hits after the season. The defense could lose as many as nine starters. In blowout games this season, Illinois will have to get many of the young defenders some experience.

The offense loses two talented linemen, but doesn't take nearly the hit of the defense. So, a year from now, the offense will have to make up for some of the potential issues on defense.

Illini Power wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Is Loren Tate around at Camp? Any funny stories or wisdom passed around while passing time?  Any comments from him re Coach Beck and camp?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Profile Picture

Illini Power,

Loren has been to every practice at Rantoul so far and I don't think he will miss any. He even brings his own lawn chair for comfort purposes, showing his veteran wisdom.

He has all sorts of stories to tell, but few that are printable on a family chat.

I think he likes the way Beckman is running the camp. He also has the same concerns about certain positions (offensive line, receiver, special teams) as the coaches.

Loren has seen this so long that I think he understands when there is enough talent on hand and when there isn't. I'll ask him later in camp where he thinks this current team stacks up.

I know he has been impressed by Jon Davis and Josh Ferguson. Good call.

William Sans wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm

A couple days in, which position has the biggest concern for depth this year?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Profile Picture


At first, I would have said running back. But the freshmen are playing well and Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson look very good. So, not running back.

Maybe the middle of the secondary, where Steve Hull is banged up. Supo Sanni has done well and Earnest Thomas has taken over for Hull. Tommy Davis will be a factor and so will Patrick Nixon-Youman. But the safeties should get a lot of work and another injury or two would create a problem.

I think offensive line might be another spot. Luke Butkus is working hard to develop depth beyond the first six or seven players. Maybe Ryan Nowicki helps once he becomes comfortable in the offense. We'll see.

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

Couldn't help but notice U.S. high jumper (last night's silver medal winner) Erik Kynard is from Toledo.  Any relation to the Illini's Tim Kynard?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Profile Picture


Great question. I will try to ask Tim later today, though it seems very possible they are related.

Congrats to all of the Americans in the Olympics. It was a lot of fun to watch last week. I'm not getting to see much this week because of training camp responsibilities. But I am trying to keep up to date.

Dr. Phil B. wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Bob, I noticed your response to a question in yesterday's chat about team leadership. I hate to continue to bring up those '08 & '09 teams that had so much talent, but were so disappointing. I think a comment was made concerning a lack of players/coaches leadership on those squads. How can this team avoid that situation? Those teams hurt Zook more than anything else in not getting the local talent to continue to come to Champaign - a lack of consistent winning teams. Am I wrong?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Profile Picture

Dr. Phil,

I think you are right. If Ron Zook had followed the Rose Bowl with two more bowl appearances, he would have been given a contract extension and would still be here.

There seemed to be a disconnection between the coaches and players on those two teams. Not sure why that happened. Another win or two in 2008 would have meant a lot. But the team couldn't get it done and was forced into a win-or-else situation in 2010. That happened, but wasn't followed by a stronger 2011.

This is a new staff at Illinois. The players seemed to have bought in. You don't hear any complaining, even  behind the scenes. And I think there is a genuine feeling of trust between the players and coaches. That doesn't always happen with a transition.

What you are going to have to watch for is how the team handles losses or bad plays in games. During the Zook era, I didn't see a positive response in those situations. One bad play seemed to lead to another and another. And the losses piled up. It was a track they couldn't get off no matter what they tried.

I do think this team is a little less likely to go on a long losing streak because of the defense. It's like having a great pitcher in baseball. You know that guy is going to stop the skid.

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


Any word on the timeline on Ryan Klachko's decision?  Did he interact with the coaches/players at all when he was at camp yesterday?

Talking with friends who have made it to Rantoul, they all say the same thing -- Illinois looks like they're in a lot of trouble at WR.  Tons of drops and not much separation in their routes.  What are your impressions?  Could Jack Ramsey help at WR?

If you were a player.... who's camp would you rather attend -- Ron Zook's Camp Rantoul or Tim Beckman's?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Profile Picture


I don't think an announcement is coming today, although in a transfer situation sooner is better than later. He did watch the team practice and there had to be some mingling, though I didn't follow him around. Probably should have. To me, coming to Illinois makes great sense for Klachko, who will be close to home and still in the Big Ten.

The receivers have had some struggles, but I will give them a pass because it is early. If they are dropping passes a week from now, they are in big trouble. My guess is that won't be the case. I think Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green will help at receiver and that will be a positive move. Jack Ramsey has also been mentioned as a receiver possibility.

Tim Beckman's. Why, because it only lasts a week. Now, as a reporter, I prefer the longer Camp Rantoul. That's just me.



Ryan S wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm

How do the practices with the new crop of coaches compare to the coaches of the past? Are they more efficient across the board and every drill run with a purpose? How do the players seem to be responding to the new coaches as in years past?


Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Profile Picture


I do think there is more attention to detail than in the past. That isn't to downgrade the past staff, I just think that is a major priority for the staff, from Tim Beckman on down. You see it with the ball protection drills at the end of the stretch. And you see it, as Bob Rosenthal pointed out, during kickoff return drills. The guys up front were catching short kicks, something Bob couldn't remember seeing the former staff do.

I think the players are responding to the opportunity to play and the potential to win. They have good feelings about the former coaches, but those guys are gone. Wisely, they have moved on and are trying to do what they are told. Smart move.

MAC from Chicago wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm

We have 17 offensive linemen on the roster; so when Coach Beckman says that we lack depth on the offensive line.....what he really means is we lack TALENT.....what do you say?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Profile Picture


I think the expression you are looking for is "quality depth." You can have a bunch of linemen on scholarship, but if they are going to get run over by Big Ten defenses, you can't let them on the field.

A lot of the problem goes more to inexperience. I think some of the young guys will eventually be ready, but they aren't ready now. What Illinois really needed was to bring in a junior college offensive lineman or two to fill some gaps. That didn't work out, so Luke Butkus is trying to make it work with the talent on hand.


Bob Asmussen wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm
Profile Picture

I am going to cut it off for today. I will find out about Tim Kynard and the Olympian.

Some of you might have noticed my AP ballot. Feel free to trash me for picking Michigan. I am probably wrong. If the Wolverines get pounded by Alabama in the opener, a possibility, I will happily fix my mistake. Until then, I'm sticking with Brady Hoke and Denard Robinson.

Talk to you Thursday. If you have time to listen to WDWS tonight, I will be on with Steve Kelly at 5:30 p.m. Should be fun.