Nov. 8 recruiting/football chat

Friday, November 8, 2013 - 11:00am

It's seven days away from Cliff Alexander's decision. Where does the Chicago Curie big man stand? And how will Tim Beckman's team fare at Indiana? Hit up recruiting blogger and football beat writer Matt Daniels at 11 a.m. on Friday. Feel free to submit questions early.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 10:59 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Good morning everyone. Matt Daniels here for a little bit to take your question on Illinois football and Illinois recruiting. Illinois will try to end its 18-game Big Ten losing streak on Saturday afternoon at Indiana, the site of the last Big Ten win by the Illini more than two years ago.

And a week from today, Cliff Alexander is set to make his college decision. Looks like it'll come down to Kansas and Illinois vying for the Chicago Curie power forward's services, with Memphis as a darkhorse.

Let's get started.

BrianA — 11:00 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

If Illinois doesn't go to a bowl game will Beckman be forced to make some staff changes ?

Especially on the defensive side 

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 11:05 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Hey BrianA,

Staff changes are common every offseason in college football. Tim Beckman made plenty since the 2012 season end.

He brought in, most notably, Bill Cubit as the offensive coordinator, Greg Colby as the defensive line coach, A.J. Ricker as the offensive line coach, Mike Bellamy as the wide receivers coach and Al Seamonson as the outside linebackers coach. Ricker replaced Jim Bridge, who was, for about six weeks, Illinois' offensive line coach before he left for the same position at Purdue. And Beckman took over coaching the cornerbacks after Steve Clinkscale left for Cincinnati.

The heat is on defensive coordinator Tim Banks, whose unit has struggled mightily for more than half the season. Beckman has said previously he and Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas meet on a weekly basis, so I'm sure all sorts of discussion goes on between the two about improving the program. If the defense struggles in the final four games like it did at the start of Big Ten play, I'd imagine there would be some sort of turnover on the defensive staff. Coaches know they are judged on what their players do, and the defense has certainly not cut it for most of the season. If the Illinois defense plays like it did for nearly three-fourths of the Penn State game the rest of the season, some jobs might be safe. But another losing record would almost guarantee some staff turnover.

John M. of DC — 11:05 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Matt, Great job on the chats. We alumni enjoy them very much. At the heart of everything that is wrong with the football is recruiting. Clifton Garrett, Nyles Morgan and Parker Westphal are the highest rated unsigned players in the state. Can Beckman and staff sign any one of those three? Which gets us to the largest issue: I believe that it will take five years for Beckman to win 6 and go to a bowl game. Will Thomas let him go that long before firing him? If Beckman leaves don't we just repeat the same process over and over?

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 11:11 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Hey John M.,

To give you a short answer about the possibility of Illinois signing Clifton Garrett, Nyles Morgan or Parrker Westphal: no way.

Illinois hasn't been heavily involved in the recruitment of those three in-state talents for some time. Garrett, a linebacker at Plainfield South, will likely land at an SEC school. Same for Morgan, a linebacker at Crete-Monee. I'd bet Westphal, a cornerback at Bolingbrook, ends up at either Northwestern or Michigan State.

One of the most intriguing aspects of covering Illinois football, like our long-time college football writer Bob Asmussen always says, is you're never quite sure what to expect out of Illinois. A bowl game, albeit unlikely, isn't still out of the question this year. Beat Indiana tomorrow, and there are winnable games against Purdue and Northwestern. Heck, Illinois has historically played Ohio State well in the 21st century at Memorial Stadium, although that may not hold true this year with the way Urban Meyer's team is playing as of late.

Right now, I'd say Beckman has done enough to warrant a third year on the job. But if the losing continues, who knows if Beckman will be around for the duration of his contract. How Illinois does next year with Wes Lunt at quarterback and a defense that will return nine starters could go a long way towards determining if Illinois can get itself in the upper half of the Big Ten and if Beckman is the right coach moving forward.

Anonymous User — 11:12 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Seems like when we hired Cubit we got better there quickly. The same when we hired Koenning for defense. Those were both very experienced coordinators. Are we going to have to do this again for defense again? Also do you think Cubit is at a time in his life he would stay here and help build the program? Also in the past I guess I could understand losing players to nearby programs like Ohio State, ND, Michigan, and even Iowa and Wisconsin. But now we lose very good in-state talent to far away places like LSU, Tennessee, Syracuse, Kansas, Nebraska, and Mississippi.I know continued losing does not help, but how can you build your program if at best you don't get even a top 20 player from nearby? I know winning/losing and building a program is like what comes first chicken or the egg, how can you win if they won't come. Mississippi wasn't good but they have no problem drawing players. Same could be said of programs like Wisconsin and Iowa 20 years ago and most recently Tennessee. Your thoughts please.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 11:19 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Hey anonymous,

Good point on Bill Cubit and Vic Koenning. Both delivered impressive results early in their tenure. Aside from the Michigan State game, Illinois has moved the ball with considerably greater success than it did last year. We'll have to wait and see what transpires on the defensive side if there are any changes made after the season. Tim Banks has produced stellar defenses at Cincinnati before he arrived at Illinois, but the results haven't followed Banks to Champaign-Urbana.

Cubit seems to enjoy living and working in the C-U. He told me at late July that this would be his last job. The coaching veteran has coached all across the country, so we'll see if he moves on, but right now, he's content working on making the Illinois offense better.

The SEC is the hottest place right now for blue-chip football recruits to go. It's the best football conference in the country and produces dozens of NFL players each year. That's why playing for a Tennessee or an LSU or a Mississippi is appealing to high school players from Illinois these days.

Having Hugh Freeze at Mississippi has helped the Rebels' recruiting efforts. He's a well-known personality, not just for his coaching, and that relates well to recruits. Plus what he did last February will be a boon for future recruiting classes as well.

Illinois coaches feel like they are making solid in-roads with some of the top Class of 2015 prospects in Illinois right now. Coming off a 2-10 season and having a new staff that wasn't exactly familiar to some high school coaches in the state always makes recruiting efforts more difficult. Illinois' defense should be improved next season based on the number of returnees it will have, and a strong influx of offensive recruits are taking note of what Bill Cubit has accomplished this season.

Illini Power — 11:21 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Matt -

Who would you identify as possible DC candidates if MT/TB decides to relieve our current DC?  Ideal would be a DC candidate with balanced xo's and solid/strong recruiting skills.

Also, presuming that the football team passes the eye test in the remaining games, should MT give TB a one-year extension of his contract (or something to that effect) for the purpose of avoiding the lame duck image for next season?

Thank you.




Matt Daniels (moderator) — 11:26 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Hey Illini Power,

Good question. Have thought about that first question a bit this season, but havent' looked too far or done too much research into possible names. I don't think you'd be able to pull away a successful defensive coordinator from another BCS conference to come to Illinois to fix the defense. You'd be more looking at one of two possible candidates, in my opinion. One would be a veteran head coach who was fired, i.e. what Illinois did this offseason on the offensive side of the ball with Bill Cubit. Or you could go the other route and hire a younger defensive assistant who has coache some stout defenses.

Again, though, Illinois still has four games left and the defense could play a whole lot better in those four games, keeping Tim Banks' job safe. We'll have to see how it all plays out.

Beckman has a five-year contract, so not too sure what you mean about lame-duck status for next year. He's safe through the 2016 season right now based on his current contract.

Anonymous User — 11:26 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Who are the top in-state prospects in Illinois next year? Seems like the last few years has been very good, but we have come up empty in acquiring those commitments. Also if your from Illinois does it make sense to go to an out-of-state schools and perenially not play, when you can stay in-state close to family and friends who can see you here?

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 11:32 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Hey anonymous,

Illinois has struggled in getting the top in-state players in recent years. That said, every football program in the country will miss on a few of its state's top players every year. But what successful programs have been able to do is hold onto their fair share, which is something Illinois has had difficulty doing.

Defensive end Terry Beckner Jr. from East St. Louis, running back Natereace Strong from East St. Louis, quarterback Jack Beneventi from Benet Academy, wide receiver Miles Boykin from New Lenox Providence Catholic, wide receiver Flynn Nagel from Chicago Marist, running back Dre Brown from DeKalb and offensive lineman Gabe Megginson from Jacksonville, among others, are some of the state's top talent in the Class of 2015.

That last question is a selling point Illinois coaches are trying to harp to recruits. Stay close to home, let your family see you play and possibly play earlier than you might at other schools. Tim Beckman has shown he isn't afraid of playing true freshmen, which could be looked at as the program is struggling so the best talent lies with true freshmen. We'll see how many true freshmen will play next year given Illinois will have returning starters at nearly every position outside of wide receivers.

Matt Daniels (moderator) — 11:34 AM on Fri, 11/08/2013

Going to wrap up the chat for this week. Thanks for all the questions. Make sure to check out our Live! Report on HQ starting around 12:30 p.m. tomorrow from Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. Any other questions, feel free to email me at or hit me up on Twitter (@mdaniels_NG).

Have a good weekend everyone!