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Ask the Voice of the Illini about Tim Beckman's radio show, the flight home from Madison and John Groce's first team. Barnhart's chatting at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Good Morning. Looking forward to John Groce's team as they start practice this week. The Illini women's basketball team under Matt Bollant has also started practicing. Football with a big game this week at Michigan.
Lets get started.
Brian...I recently heard a discussion on TV that the reason the Illinois Football Program is going south is... because Illinois, as a state, has lost so many quality jobs... therefore the reasoning goes...that quality athletes have gone in the same direction. I have lived much of my life in Illinois and truly love our state... but need some help from you since I now live in Ohio. Thankx.
I suppose there could be something to the fact that the state of Illinois economy has been out of whack for several years now and doesnt seem to be getting any better in the near future. The "rust-belt" states..... as the Upper Midwest is sometimes referred to......have lost a lot of population to Southern states over the last 25 years.
Then again...Wisconsin seems to do ok...and Michigan and Ohio State continue to get good players. I think the bigger issue for Illinois is keeping the top in-state players home. It can be hard...because Notre Dame and Iowa and Wisconsin and Michigan and Ohio State are nearby....and can exploit a bad Illini season or two and pick off some of the better players.
Tim Beckman is alert to that fact and is trying to build a 500-mile radius around Champaign-Urbana and work really hard to keep those in-state players in the Land of Lincoln.
I know it sounds simple and I have said it before....but I will say it again. If the Illini can just put together some consistent seasons (7, 8, 9 wins-regular bowl appearances, etc) I think the recruiting process becomes so much easier in-state and you gain momentum with excitement and ticket sales. But right now the football program has had trouble keeping its footing over the last decade...and that allows other more consistent programs like Wisconsin and Iowa (and others) to make inroads on the recruiting front.
As they say...winning games solves a lot of problems.
I know there are significant areas of concern for the FB team. I was excited before the season when I heard the Coach say they would get the playmakers on the field in whatever capacity they can best help. Specifically mentioned Jon Davis, Dami Ayoola, and Miles Osei. I am very disappointed in the little we seem to see them making plays because they are not even on the field. In earlier games Davis and Ayoola carried the ball with success and now seems like never again. Could they really do any worse? Your thoughts on why this is happening.
I am like you. I would like to see more of Jon Davis, Ayoola and Osei. Davis is such a versatile athlete and got off to a great start against Western Michigan. Ayoola showed great balance and skill on the spinning touchdown run against Charleston Southern. I think we have seen more of Osei lining up at various places on the field the last couple of weeks...especially since Nathan Scheelhaase is back to nearly 100 percent. While Nathan was injured, Reilly O'Toole needed a backup .....so Osei was limited to quarterback duty.
I think right now the coaching staff is looking at any and every way they can get the ball into the hands of their playmakers (Lankford, Young, Ferguson, Scheelhaase). Hopefully the Illini offensive line can get healthy and show some improvement (last in the Big 10 in sacks allowed)...because right now the offense is having a tough time giving Scheelhaase the time he needs to run the offense. Hopefully that would allow more freedom to involve guys like Davis and Ayoola and Osei.
No question, just wanted to say hi.
Go Unity. Go Illini.
Great to hear from you! What do you make of the future breakup of the Okaw Valley Conference? Hopefully the Rockets can find a new conference home.
The other day, HQ published an interview with Tom Lemming in which he stated, I believe, that Ron Zook's last two recruiting classes were last and next to last respectively. If this is so, without knowing what Tim Beckman's first class was last Feb., it had to be at or near the bottom, why all the fanfare about the football team when the basketball team is counseling patience. It would seem that football had a far longer way to go to get the sheer numbers up to Big Ten competitiveness. That is three almost dead years in a row, and no program can withstand that.
I think that fans were assuming that the football team would have a decent year this season because several key members of the defense were back this year (Brown, Buchanan, Foster, Staples, Hawthorne) and that if the offense could improve just a little bit (several scoreless quarters during the 2nd half of last year)...the Illini could compete in the Leaders Division (especially with OSU and PSU not eligible for the Big Ten Championship game in December.)
Unfortunately injuries and lack of depth have put a crimp in those expectations.
The recruiting this year was hindered by the hiring date for Tim Beckman. He really had about a month to get his feet on the ground and get a class signed. Ron Zook's staff cast a pretty wide net the last couple of years....pulling in players from several different parts of the country. Those classes were not as highly rated as some of the previous classes....but still have some good players that are already contributing (Ferguson and Young for example). I think Tim Beckman's staff has contacts in a lot of different places (Ohio for example) and I think those contacts will yield some good results in the future.
Lets see what the next two recruiting classes look like and then make a judgement from there.
It looks like John Groce is already making inroads on the recruiting front...and I think those dividends will pay off in the near future.
Have to run. Talk to you Saturday from the Big House!