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College football beat writer Bob Asmussen chats at 1 p.m. Mondays. Submit questions of any kind at any time.
Welcome back to another football chat. It's a miracle, I am actually starting on time today.
The first week of practice is done for Illinois and it was an eventful week, especially with the unexpected coaching change.
Before I get to the rest of the questions, Jim Mooberry has asked me the following:
"I see that Illinois has moved Robbie Bain from the OL
to the DL. Does this really work? Aren't guys on the OL in the first place
because they are too slow to play defense? I know Illinois has done this in the
past but I don't remember them having great success doing it."
Thanks for the question Jim. I don't think the coaches make the move unless they feel that Bain can play defense at the Big Ten level. Defensive line might be a spot where Bain can fit in quicker. Offensive line generally takes longer to see the field. And I don't believe the old adage about offensive linemen not being as fast or athletic holds true today. It will be interesting to see if Bain is able to help this season.
One example at Illinois where that move did work was with Craig Wilson. He was able to contribute on defense after a limited role on offense. I'm sure there are other examples, too.
Any information on the number of High School players at this weekends workout?
I was told there were 80 players here, which was more than they originally expected. It worked out well for Illinois because the team was able to practice in the stadium. And that allows easy access for the recruits to the club facilities on the west side of the stadium and the recruiting area underneath the north stands.
Getting recruits on campus and around the team has to help Illinois moving forward.
Hi Bob -
Is it official that Corey Lewis will get a sixth year of eligibility? If not, is there any indication of when a decision might be made?
I don't believe it is official yet, but it seems highly likely Lewis will get his sixth year. He has missed more than enough time to be eligible. And it is the kind of situation the NCAA is supposed to reward. Lewis could have quit football long ago, but he has contnued trying to recover and wants to play. Plus, off the field he is an asset to both the school and the program. He was out last spring and summer, talking at different functions. He is one of the nicest kids in the program and deserves another season of eligibility.
Illinois needs him eligible, too. If Lewis is able to play at tackle, it will allow some flexibility at other spots. He was playing well before he got hurt and did fine when he came back last season.
Hey Bob, It's really strange, this is the second time Illinois has lost an assistant coach to Purdue as spring practice began. The last time was with Coach Z. But both teams have completely different coaching staffs. I'm not asking you to explain it. It's just strange. I am glad though that Illinois has a more experienced O-line coach than Luke Butkus. I was always kind of dubious about him, because before he came back he had only played and coached in Ron Turner's system. A system that is totally different than the spread offense Illinois used last year.
Ed Zaunbrecher left Illinois to work at Purdue. That was an unusual situation, though I think he was given a promotion by the Boilermakers.
Illinois ended up with an offensive line coach who is younger than Luke Butkus, but who has more college experience. And A.J. Ricker is very familiar with Bill Cubit's offense. That should be a plus as Illinois tries to rebuild the worst offense in the conference.
What are 3 things you would like to see the Illini accomplish this spring practice session? Do you expect a much more organized offense and better play calling with Cubit as the OC? Also any word on how the Junior visits went this past weekend, and could you name some of the key visitors?
For Illinois to improve its record in 2013, the offensive line has to be better. Much, much better. No offense will work if the quarterback is running for his life the entire game. And that's what happened to Nathan Scheelhaase last season.
Illinois needs to establish two or three go-to receivers during the sping, guys Scheelhaase knows will catch the ball and move it down the field. I'm thinking it will be some combination of Ryan Lankford, Spencer Harris and maybe one or two of the young guys. Bill Cubit said somebody is going to catch at least 70 passes. They need to find that guy soon.
Third, the secondary needs to be decided. There are some options there, but the area got hurt by graduation. If Illinois can't find two or three corners and two or three safeties who can do a reasonable job of coverage, it won't really matter what happens to the rest of the defense. This is pretty close to the offensive line rebuild as the most crucial part of the team.
Cubit has been very impressive and he knows what he wants to do. But the players still have to perform. I believe he will have them ready for the season.
I don't have any of the names of the juniors, but I know it went very well. I'm guessing Illinois will see more recruits at upcoming practices and at the spring game.
Fields leaves already.................how many unemployed Mac coaches do we have to hire? Beckman is dead man walking and after a 1-11 season will be shown the door.
While Jim Bridge's move to Purdue seemed a bit odd, I don't think you can blame Tim Beckman for that one. He gave the guy a chance and then Bridge left when he got a chance to make more money.
You will have to let the season play out before you decide what happens to Tim Beckman. A lot of famous coaches started their careers with two or less wins. Like Barry Alvarez.
Looking for some feedback to a few questions.......
I know there were some injuries last season but I feel that another reason for last seasons debacle was because there was some resentment over Zook's firing and a few didn't really buy into Beckmon. With the winter session over and spring ball upon us, are the current players starting to buy in to Beckmon's philosophy?
Usually a program might make 1 or 2 coaching changes but we turned over half the staff, how is this being received with future recruits? Sounds like thats more of a turn off than a turn on in an effort to get high profile recruits to Champaign.
With quite a few 2014 recruits visiting over the weekend, were there any who came away impressed by what they saw?
Currently not interested in how many games will be won or lost cause the start of the season is stil a few months away and a lot can happen between now and then. With only 3 practices under there belt, which players have stood out so far according to the coaches?
Whenever you have a change at the top, some of the players are going to be upset. That is very normal. They felt like things were going well and they had to start over. It was especially difficult for some of the older players, who are now gone. In the second year of the program, there has to be more belief from the players on hand. Otherwise, they would move on.
Tim Beckman planned some of the coaching changes and others were a surprise to him. I don't think he was surprised when Billy Gonzales and Luke Butkus left. And he fired Chris Beatty. But I don't think he expected Steve Clinkscale to move on. And I'm sure he was hoping Keith Gilmore would stay. Will the team be better because of the staff changes? That's the million dollar question. I think you will have a good idea four games into the season. If Ilinois has three or four wins, it worked. If Illinois has two or fewer wins, then the question is still unanswered.
The quarterbacks have started well, especially considering the new offense. In the first two days of practice, Nathan Scheelhaase didn't throw an interception and Reilly O'Toole had one. I have also seen good work from the receivers and the running backs, who will get to have a lot of fun during the season if it works the way Bill Cubit hopes.
I am going to cut it off for today. Thanks again for your questions.
If you have some free time today, stop at our radio show in downtown Champaign at the Esquire. We are in the back room.
Have a great week. Talk to you next Monday.