Welcome back Brian Barnhart, who will chat at 11 a.m. Thursdays throughout the school year. Ask the Voice of the Illini about Tim Beckman's media blackout, Nathan Scheelhaase's job status and Penn State's situation - or anything that's on your mind.
Good Morning! Great to be back on the chats again.
I will be planning to chat every Thursday morning throughout the football and basketball seasons from now until next April.
Should be an interesting year with new coaches in football and basketball.
Lets get things started.
How have the new coaches changed tone and tempo of practices compared to the prior coaches?
With the shorter time in Rantoul (one week instead of two) it has been hard for those of us who watch for such things to get a real good feel yet as to changes in tempo and tone.
I did get to see some spring practices and some practice at Rantoul... and did notice some slight changes. For instance there seemed to be more cases when the #1 units on offense and defense were going head to head....such as in goal line situations (as opposed to #1 unit vs #2 unit). It think that helped the intensity of practice. Also...the emphasis on special teams improvement is pretty evident. Obviously the Illini had nowhere to go but up in that category.
in both the spring practices and those up in Rantoul...Coach Beckman has continued the "competition within the competition" that I think has been fun for the players. Contests such as more accurate tossing of Gatorade bottles into trash cans.....removing stripes from the helmets of freshman who impress enough to make the varsity roster..winners getting steak...losers getting hot dogs has been a good change of pace. ...
I get it....college football is a business...but it is just a game after all.
It is important...but it should also be fun.
How does the new turf look? How is it supposed to be an improvement over the previous turf?
I was on the field the other day...and it looks and feels great. Different look at midfield with the state of Illinois outlining the "Block I" logo.
From what I understand...the endzones on the old turf were beginning to have issues...and the company that was going to replace those and the turf at the indoor practice facility gave the university the option of replacing the entire turf inside Memorial Stadium as well. So that is what they did.
Who will have a more successful first season - Beckman or Groce?
It was really weird last year how the football and basketball seasons were so much alike. Great starts (6-0, 15-3)...and poor finishes. Winning records...but fans not satisfied with the general direction of the programs.
I think of the two coaches....Beckman has the potential to be successful in the conference at the start of his Illini career...due to the upheaval at Penn State.....and the fact that Ohio State is also ineligible for the Leaders Division crown. If the Illini could beat Indiana and Purdue in Champaign (never guaranteed in previous years)...and steal a win in Madison against the Badgers (tough to do for any program)...they would be in the driver's seat for the divison title.
Coach Groce has some key returning players (Paul, Richardson, Abrams, etc)...but what he is facing in the Big Ten is a little tougher. Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin have all been consistently good the last few years...and now Michigan is getting better...and some think Indiana will be one of the top teams in the country this winter.
It should be fun to watch both coaches bring their high tempo offenses and winning formulas from the Mid-American conference to Champaign. I am really excited to see what develops.
Welcome back Brian
Is Beckman right to keep reporters like Tate out of practice. I know Loren isnt happy.
I dont know of any reporters that cover any school on a regular basis that are happy when coaches close practice. So Tate isnt alone when it comes to that.
In recent years...with the advent of social media...more and more coaches are finding it easier to just shut down practice for everyone. Illinois is just following the national trend.
I will be talking to Coach Beckman just about every day during the week during football season (radio interviews, luncheons, TV shows) and so I get the opportunity to find out what is happening in practice. If I really need to get background information...I am fortunate enough that I can pick up the phone and ask him.
Brian, with a new coaching staff, how have you prepared yourself in covering the team this season. Did you watch any video of Beckman's Toledo team? Did you talk to any media members that covered Toledo? Has it been difficult in getting to know the coaching staff? How will you compare this upcoming season to seasons' past? Thanks again for your insights.
I did observe Toledo games when they played...so I have an idea of what the Illini offense is going to look like.
I have started to learn about all of the assistant coaches and have talked with some of them already. I look forward to getting to know them better.
Brian, thanks for your professionalism. You are the best. We know that neither the football team nor basketball team has yet to play a game so there are still questions to be answered, but I personally like our new head coaches and I think better days are ahead. My question is, as you talk with others "in the know" in college athletics, what are you hearing about Mike Thomas' choice of Tim Beckman and John Groce. How are they viewed by their peers? With them being mid-major successes, is there a sense that their peers believe that they will also be succesful at the high-major level and specifically the Big Ten?
Thanks for your comments!
Everyone I talk to that has had some connection to Tim Beckman in the past think that he is going to do a great job at Illinois.
They all talk about his attention to detail and his passion for the game of football. He has coached under and with some great coaches. He certainly has a solid resume.
I dont think many people had heard of Coach Beckman outside the Midwest prior to his hiring by Mike Thomas...but those who do know him expect him to have a lot of success at Illinois.
Thanks for all the questions today. I am looking forward to the start of football on Sept 1st!