Oct. 15 Asmussen football chat

Oct. 15 Asmussen football chat

Monday, October 15, 2012 - 1:00pm

Ask college football beat writer  Bob Asmussen what went wrong at MIchigan, the bye week and Tim Beckman's recruiting. Or anything that's on your mind. He chats at 1 p.m. Monday but submit questions any time.

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 12:10 pm
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Welcome back to another football chat. Thanks for all of your great questions.

If you are in town tonight, stop by the Esquire for our weekly radio show at 5 p.m.

No dawdling today, time to get to the questions.

Banks Horrid wrote on October 15, 2012 at 12:10 pm

It is obvious Beckman and staff are over there head. I think in the wake of this start someone on staff needs to be let go and my pick would be Banks, what do you think?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I'm sure after the season, Tim Beckman will evaluate the staff, top to bottom, and consider changes. Given the lack of success the first season, it wouldn't be a surprise if some of the coaches move on.

If you look back at recent Illinois football coaches, there are always some staff changes, especially early. Sometimes, you think you are getting a certain type of coach, but it doesn't work out and you make changes. It happens across the country.

It's easy to pinpoint Tim Banks because of the lack of defensive success. But we don't know what he is being told to run and we don't know how it is going behind the scenes. Without being in their meetings, I think it's impossible to know who is responsible. Probably everybody has a hand in it.

I understand the frustration of the fans, especially given the defensive success last season. It isn't working this year and it can't continue like this for very long if Beckman wants to stay here.

Jorge wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Has the team hit 'rock bottom' yet?  If not how much lower can they descend?  Is Beckman on the 'hot seat' yet?  If not, he should be.

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I'd have to say a shutout loss at a school you consider a rival is pretty close to rock bottom. But worse would be a home loss to a school you think you should beat every year, Indiana.

This year looks a lot like Ron Zook's first year at Illinois, which was littered with blowout losses. The difference is the expectation level going into the season. But I'm starting to reevaluate those expectations Illinois was a bad team at the end of the 2011 season and a bowl win against mediocre UCLA doesn't wipe that out. Maybe the reality is that Tim Beckman inherited a rebuilding project but was reluctant to mention that. I don't blame him. You always want your players thinking positively, thus the wrist bands with the Big Ten title date (they can take those off now).


Red Grange wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Bob, why did Teko Powell play in the Michigan game wasting his redshirt? There is no reason to have him play in a 45-0 blowout especially when there are other guys who deserve a chance to play. DeJazz Woods and John Valentine should have been used instead of Teko.

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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According to the Illinois stats, Teko has played in two games this season. So, his redshirt wasn't given away on Saturday. Going into the year, I thought he would be one of the freshmen who had a chance to get on the field early both because of his ability and need at the position. And I'm sure he wanted to get on the field.

At this point, if I'm the Illinois coaches, I'm getting ready for 2013. That means getting players on the field like Powell who I know will be key players. I think you will see his time increase in the final five games.

DanL wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Hi Bob,

Really good to have you back doing these chats. Two questions. I am interested in what you see as the long term prospects for Illinois under Tim Beckman. How do you see the next two years playing out given what has happened so far? How do you sell tickets next year? Thanks.

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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Dan L,

I think it's too early to tell what will happen with Tim Beckman at Illinois. He seems to have a good plan and it worked at Toledo. But sometimes it takes more than one year. I'm not thinking it is automatically going to be a failure. I don't think he has been given close to enough time.

See what he does in the offseason with his staff and recruiting. If he brings in a solid class despite the lack of success that tells you he has a chance.He knew Illinois wasn't going to be easy and I assume he has prepared for the worst-case scenario, which he is in.

Tickets aren't going to be difficult to sell next year because Ohio State and Wisconsin come to town. I'll be curious about the game in Chicago. That could be a tough one unless the tickets are very, very inexpensive. But the home schedule is good. And in 2014, Nebraska comes to town, which guarantees at least one sellout (see Northwestern this weekend).


calvin1 wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

since we're still on the hook with Zook, so to speak, can he be compelled to return to coach football?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I know you are joking, but that's not going to happen. He will be back on the sideline next year, just not at Illinois.

It would be interesting to hear what he had to say about Illinois. Though I doubt he would be publicly critical of the new staff. That isn't his way.

Nick N. wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Hey Bob...Do you think the fact that Tim Beckman was selected, with the benefit of hindsight, points to a lack of interest in the ILL football job by college coaches or does it simply look like a bad pick to you? I know you have said he should get three years, but I would think if the team does not show progress next year that could be it as ticket sales become a factor at some point, agree/disagree?



Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I know the top two choices for the job were Kevin Sumlin and Larry Fedora. Either would have been a great choice and they are doing very well at their new jobs. Mike Thomas tried and had the financial backing, but they wanted different gigs. That's their priority.

I don't think we can decide yet whether or not Tim Beckman was a good hire. You have to give him more time. And I don't think anything will happen after next year.

The guy had success in a difficult situation in Toledo. The place is still going strong. I think that tells you he knew what he was doing. But it doesn't always translate to the next job. There are a bunch of great coaches who couldn't make it work at various schools for all sorts of reasons. But I think people need to be patient. That's hard for Illinois fans because of the years of struggles. They want to be good and that's a helpful thing.

Danny Dish wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Glad to see you back Bob,

Bob, don't let Illinois football compromise your health. It's not worth it. It's only a game and there is so much more to life. Don't ever forget that! Can't say I am surprised at the results this year. That's what happens when you go to the bargain bin for your coaching staff. They'll try to spin it and sell us on a thousand excuses like, Beckman needs time to get his own players in here and new systems implemented; Illini have more players out to injuries than all other teams; Illini are too thin or inexperienced at positions (but only Illini); players are confused and not playing at their best (now who confused them?) and so on. Truth is 3 years from now some will still be making excuses while Illinois still ocupies basement of Big Ten. Then a new AD will hire a new coach and cycle starts over . .

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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Thanks for the kind words and the comments. To their credit, the coaches haven't offered any public excuses. I think they are as baffled as the fans. But clearly few of the players are performing up to expectations and once the confidence wheels started falling off, the blowouts were going to follow. They have five games to turn it around. It doesn't seem like that will be easy.

Anonymous User wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

How much is Beckman owed under his contract if he is fired after this season?

How much if he is fired after 2013?

Do we still have any assistants with two-year contracts? Has Ron Guenther's prediction of that length becoming the industry standard become reality under Thomas?m



Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I believe Tim Beckman's buyout is $400,000 per each remaining year. So, if he were fired after this season, which isn't going to happen, Illinois would owe him $1.6 million. Chop off $400,000 after each of the following years.

I'll have to check on the assistants and get back to you. It would make sense that some or all would be on multiyear deals.

Joe from Indy wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Hi Bob, Good to hear you are doing better.  Look forward to you getting back to work covering the Illini exclusively.  I live over here in Indianapolis.  Everybody here is saying that IU will beat Illinois here in two weeks.  Now if Indiana rolls over Illinois just like La Tech, Arizona State, and Michigan did then we have a serious problem with this coaching staff.  Now tell me why i shouldnt be worried about Indiana.  Thanks

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I can't give you a reason not to worry. The Hoosiers have made progress under Kevin Wilson, which showed during the game against Ohio State. They played well and clearly are an improved team. They will be expecting to beat Illinois even though the game is in Champaign.

Indiana does seem to play better at home, but they have the talent to pull off the road win. They aren't a bowl team this year, but are moving that way. They are closer to it than Illinois.


Lefty55 wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

The spread requires a storng armed QB and talented WR's.  We have neither.  How worried should the fan base be when the WR part of the equation is not being addressed with this recruiting class?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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The upcoming class has to have a group of receivers or you are right Illinois is in major trouble. I'm not sure if it would require a change in offense, but adjustments would need to be made.

I think the coaches are continuing to hunt for receivers across the country. The good part is that there are plenty to go around. There are always some talented players who fall though the cracks. The job for the coaches is to go find them.


Nadia JeffJohnson wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Hi Bob, and welcome back.  Then again, you may want to run and hide.  Illini football certainly is not good for one's health.

I believe you stated last week (2 weeks ago?) that the chances of Tim Beckman being canned after this season is 0%.  If true, that is sad.

When is this athletic department ever going to put their big boy pants on and do whatever / legally it takes to be a big boy?  And no, I am not pining for Illinois to play at a level consistently like the Nebraska's, Michigan's, and Ohio State's of the Big 10.  Rather, there is no reason why Illinois can not be a notch below the Wisconsin's of the world and consistently competing with the Iowa's and Michigan State's.  Instead, Illinois is what, the 4th or 5th best football school in the state (NIU, NW, ISU, SIU)?????

Illinois is Pop Warner compared to those schools.  Since Mackovic left, Illinois has been much closer in rank to Indiana.  Indi-freaking-ana.  And worse, based upon what I saw of Indiana vs. Ohio State, is it safe to say that they will beat us by 28 on Homecoming?  We can't score, and they moved the ball pretty well against Mr. Luke Fickell.

Go back to 1997, when Illinois football was Robert Holcombe and a cast of Ohio Valley-type players.  We fans knew that football would be atrocious that season, and it was.  Still, we showed up to the games.  We gave Ryan Leaf and Washington State all they could handle.  More importantly, as the season progressed, the team got better.  THAT is the key here.  Bad teams should at least get better as the season progresses.

This team peaked vs. Western Michigan and has only gotten worse.  And yet, I keep hearing that there is NFL talent on this roster.  So, the players have (again, like so many other past Illini teams) quit, the coaches have quit, or both.  Regardless, Beckman is not the guy for this job.  Any other BCS school that is serious about football would realize this, take the ~ $1.4 million buyout hit, and move forward.

And from moving forward, that means dropping tremendously large coin on a proven coach.  I call B.S. on this notion that people don't want to coach here.  If Ioweeeee can afford $3.7 million on Ferentz, then Illinois can pay $4 million.  And with $4 million, there are coaches out there that have won AND would be willing to come to Champaign.  Hiring # 4 option a/k/a Mr. Toledo and his ~ .500 winning record does not cut it.

If Thomas wants to continue with the Family Dollar approach that His Excellency, Ron Guenther, started, fine.  The blowout losses are only going to continue the rest of the way.  Attendance will wane.  And if message board comments are any indication of the upcoming financial impact that Thomas is going to face, the 1970's dark ages are officially upon us.  Many of those loyal 20-40 year season ticket holders are done, and those folks will not come back unless Thomas makes a big splash with a hiring.

I hope it is like continual fingernails on the chalkboard for Thomas, when he sees 10,000 people sitting in the stands during the 2nd half of 2013 football games.

So, in typical long winded fashion, let me get to my question.  WHAT will it take for Thomas to clean up this clown show?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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Great stuff. I don't think Mike Thomas would call it a clown show at this point. Disappointing? Absolutely. But not the end of the world.

I'm sure there are discussions going on in the athletic department about ways to make it better. But they also know it won't happen in a season.

Thomas has to support his coach. No choice. And he has to help him any way possible. The problem for the fans is that there won't be any tangible signs of improvement until next year at the earliest. And that makes it difficult to take.



Dan Bloeme wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Mr Asmussen,

I have never seen such inept coaching and play calling in years and years of watching Illini football. I know Coach Zook had a rough go his first year but then Turner had run the program into the ground. Zook needed to go but his replacement is worse not better and that was the whole idea for a change to get better coaching. I know Illinois is a hard sell for the best coaches but if you're not going to get better coaching than at least leave middling in place not hire a bunch of clowns that can't even coach their way out of a paper bag. I'm impressed with what other 1st year coaches have done/are doing with equally challenging situations and players themselves say it's not injuries to blame. The players are confused why they are so bad and the answer lies with this coaching staff. Will Illinois go on to have one of their worst seasons ever Bob or will they miraculously reverse course? Which is it? 



Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I think it will be difficult for the team to reverse course for a couple of reasons. First, the schedule. Ohio State and Northwestern will be heavy favorites and Purdue and Indiana will be tossup games. Even Minnesota is playing better,

So, it wouldn't surprise me to see Tim Beckman match Ron Zook's first year win total of two. The difference of course is the expectation level. And there isn't much Illinois can do about that. Fans are angry and will take it out on the players and coaches, which is their right.

If Tim Beckman follows this season with more two- and three-win years, then a change will come soon enough. But you have to give him a chance to try.


fhjohnsonjr66 wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

What is wrong with the offensive line--they open no holes and do not do pass protection well?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I think that the group isn't as talented as past offensive lines. The depth isn't there, which hurts both in games and during practice. And injuries have played a part. I think if you threw Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah on this line, it would be capable of creating holes. Maybe some of those good linemen in the past weren't appreciated enough.

Pass protection also involves the quarterbacks getting rid of the ball and backs helping to block. That isn't going well either.

Certainly, this line ranks among the worst at Illinois in recent years. The guys are trying, but aren't getting it done.


TomTheBear wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I watched the whole game. Everything I have read and heard has bashed the Coaches. Am I the only one who saw the players quite and give up? There was no fight in the Illini I watched. My question, How much of this debaticle is on the players? Are they really buying in to what Coach Bechman is selling?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I agree. And certainly the players have to take a large share of the blame,

Did they buy in? They said they did. But early in the season, when the team lost, you could see signs of trouble. Players talking about communication breakdowns is never a good thing. I was surprised how open the players were with their criticism,

The injuries have played a part, but they aren't the whole answer. Lack of focus, effort, attention to detail all has something to do with it. And I think the lack of confidence is obvious across the board.


aaeismacgychel wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm


Now that it has been a little while, has any additional information come out as to why Ta'Jarvis Fuller was forced to leave the team? I realize Illinois can't give out any information if it was grade or drug related, but does it appear one of those two things may have been the issue, or was there some other violation of team rules (like a locker room fight or insubordination)that might help explain why Illinois is so fractured and looks like the players have no faith in the coaching staff? It just seems like a mighty big coincidence. Many thanks for your weekly time and effort.

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I haven't heard any new information but will try to find out what happened. He seemed to get off to a good start in his career, then had the setback with the hand injury. The coaches and players are pretty tight-lipped about internal discipline, but somebody knows what happened. I will try to come up with an answer for the start of next week's chat.


Big Dave wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

After the embarassing fiasco this season is there any chance that Mike Thomas just scraps this staff and starts over?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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Big Dave,

I just don't see that happening. It would be very difficult to hire a football coach after firing a one-year guy. Almost impossible. The pickings would be extremely slim. And I don't think Mike Thomas operates like that, He wants to give Tim Beckman a fair amount of time. One season is not a fair amount of time.


illini82 wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

First of all I hope you're doing well in your recovery.  Are you back on a normal schedule yet?

What do you think the real problems are and are they fixable with this current staff. Most seemed resigned to the fact that Beckman will be here for at least 3 years. But if they end with only 2 or 3 wins and the same or worse next year and recruiting can't get any traction, how do you justify staying with Beckman?

Everyone knew Turner and Zook had little to start with and fans were at least a bit more patient but I don't know if I've seen a fan base give up on a coach so quickly. And I'm in that camp based on what I've seen. As many have said it's not the losing which is bad enough but the lack of competetiveness, lack of  improvement and lack of motivation by players. It seems as if Beckman has already "lost" the players. This team and program look dead in the water with little to look forward to. What does the administration do if we average less than 35,000 per game next year which seems possibble?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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I'm moving toward a normal schedule. Thanks for asking. I really miss being involved with the football program and I miss being at The News-Gazette.

The problems start with talent. I don't think there was enough talent on the offensive line to keep the offfense moving the proper direction this year. When you throw in a couple key injuries, the problems multiply.

There has been some disconnect between the players and coaches and the players and players. That happens when you lose. Show me a 2-5 team and I will show you a bunch of unhappy guys. They all try to say the right thing, but the actions don't match the words. And that's human nature.

It's possible Tim Beckman made some mistakes in staffing, though I don't think we can know that for sure. Guys are trying, but it isn't working out.

What I saw in training camp, the workouts looked good and productive. So, I wouldn't point at preparation. It's been about the lack of execution. That falls on the players and the coaches.

I think the crowds will be solid next year because of the home schedule. And I think taking the eighth game away from C-U will be a good idea. though there won't be a huge crowd in Chicago.


illinigator wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Quick. Quick get down to Louisiana Tech and offer that coach a 3 milliion contract, before some othe school does.  That team shows they can play with any school and they have just average players on their roster.  They are exciting to watch and they don't know what giving up on a game play even when they were down by 30 to  Teaxas A and M.  They lost 59 to 57 and had achance to tie with 5 seconds left on the clock.  That is the kind of Coach Illinois needs.  What do you think?  

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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Louisiana Tech is a lot of fun to watch and I like Sonny Dykes, but it might not translate to the Big Ten. What works in the South doesn't always work elsewhere.

There are all sorts of coaches doing great jobs across the country. But Illinois isn't in the market for one now.


dennis bialas wrote on October 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Was the recruiting that bad in the last couple years of Zook's tenure to produce the results we've seen so far? If you look at the games we get no push from the offensive line, and have no speed or talent at the WR position. We can cannot sustain a drive for anthing. Defensively I think we are hampered by the offense not being able to control the ball, but they haven't been that effective either.  In all the preseason prognosticatons nobody predicted this or saw this coming, not the BTNetwork the various publications, or you. What happened, and is it fixable in the foreseeable future. Future generations of Illini fans are really being hurt by this and I'm getting older as I Type this.

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm
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I was told by members of the former staff that recruitiing became very difficult in the latter stages of Ron Zook's career. Rivals schools were using his status against Illinois and the school took players it wasn't sure could play in the Big Ten. That happens.

It's clear that the middle grades at Illinois aren't the strength of the team. Beckman has some catching up to do and he knows it.

Cap Boso wrote on October 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm


Reading the Orange and Blue blogosphere this season reveals a great deal of frustration with Illini revenue sports.  Many of the writers are fans and alumni who remember when our football and basketball programs were exciting and relevant.  They want that back NOW, and so do I.

Patience though is obviously in short supply.  As poorly as Beckman has performed this year, he probably has a multi-year task ahead of him.  Guenther left deep, cultural problems by not demanding more from Turner, Zook, and Weber -- and by not firing them quickly when they did not deliver. 

While some fans (like many who post to this site) are frustrated and want to win now, it seems that the great majority are just plain apathetic.  Illini sports are just not relevant -- as they were for far, far too many of the Guenther years.  Our poor records and long losing streaks have not helped build a new generation of fans.  My nephew's frat does not even buy tickets -- they just invite a sorority to a tavern to (maybe, kind of, sort of) watch the game.

Given that environment, how long can Thomas wait for results before he's forced to try to bring some sizzle to the program? Will take another 17 years to undo the Guenther effect?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm
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Thanks for the comments. I don't think Mike Thomas will rush to judgment. But I also don't think he will allow the football program to languish. If there isn't progress after three years, a change will be strongly considered.


scott L wrote on October 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm


I have seen two articles this week about Beckman being the "wrong hire" from Toledo. Their offensive coordinator was really the "brains behind their team and turnaround..." Any thoughts on this, and have you seen the articles? 



Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm
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I have not seen those articles, but will look for them.

I do know that Matt Campbell is considered a strong coach and is off to a great start at Toledo. Of course, he is doing it with players recruited by Tim Beckman. Still, a great job by him. He is impressive and I think will move on in the next few years.



Bob Asmussen wrote on October 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm
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Sorry to do this, but I'm going to cut off the chat for today. I apologize for the questions I didn't get to.

Talk to you next Monday. Have a great week.