June 22 Ask the Sports Editor chat

June 22 Ask the Sports Editor chat

Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 2:00pm

Now that Lovie Smith's 2018 recruiting class is now up to five commits, including his first from outside Illinois, what's next for the Illini football staff? What should be priority No. 1 the rest of the summer before training camp? What types of coverage would you like to see in the News-Gazette? Anything is fair game as sports editor Matt Daniels tackles your questions in his 2 p.m. chat on Thursday. Feel free to submit questions ahead of time.

Matt Daniels wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm
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Afternoon everyone.

Matt Daniels here for another weekly chat.

Even with Illinois football's season a little more than two months away from kicking off and basketball even further down the road, plenty to still talk about.

Illinois will hold its Hall of Fame Gala event on Friday night in Chicago, with a press conference beforehand involving Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at the United Center on Friday afternoon.

Might the Illini be possibly pursuing a college hockey team?

On the football front, Lovie Smith picked up his sixth commitment for the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night with speedy Florida wide receiver Carlos Sandy giving the Illini a verbal pledge.

And basketball workouts are ongoing as well for Brad Underwood's program.

Plus, three of The News-Gazette All-Area spring sports teams have already been unveiled, with plans for the final three in the next 10 days.

Let's get going as there are several questions already in the hopper.

Zekiah Swamp wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Going back to last weeks question about "non-head count" sports scholarships,  while I understand that the coaches "have to juggle those scholarships throughout the entire roster and can't just give a full ride to every athlete", my question is if the information about which athlete gets what percentage is made available to the public, or it is kept private like most corporate salaries?

Matt Daniels wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm
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Hey Zekiah Swamp,

Short answer, no, the information is not made available to the public about which athletes receive what percentage of scholarships for the Olympic sports or non-head count sports.

Since not every athletic team at Illinois can hand out full scholarships to every team member, it is up to the coach of the respective sport, using their discretion, about how they divy up the scholarship money.

Baseball, for instance, had 34 players on the roster this past season for Illinois. With baseball only having 11.7 scholarships to hand out, Dan Hartleb and his staff have to get creative in how that is distributed.

For men's golf, the NCAA lets you have 4.5 scholarships, so on a six-person roster that Mike Small had for this past school year, a few golfers could technically, if Small chose to do so, get full rides.

These are just two examples, but coaches of the non-revenue sports have to weigh all of these factors when doling out scholarships to prospective recruits.

Zekiah Swamp wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Please give us an update on Dwayne Lawson. 

Matt Daniels wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm
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Hey Zekiah,

The update right now is there is no update on Dwayne Lawson.

The former Virginia Tech quarterback committed to the Illini in December and was expected to be part of the Illini's signing class this past February.

But he didn't sign, and it appears the junior college transfer might not make it to Illinois in time for training camp as he tries to clear up some academic issues.

He arrived at Garden City (Kan.) Community College just before the 2016 season after he left Virginia Tech shortly before last season began. If he were to arrive at Illinois, he'd have some work to do to move ahead of Chayce Crouch on the depth chart, but he does have some athletic skills that appear promising.

He's a big quarterback who can move, something that Illinois hasn't had in the last few seasons.

But right now, I would anticipate Crouch getting the first snap of the 2017 season when Illinois hosts Ball State on Sept. 2.

Linda Jackson wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Just curious, what goes into picking the all-area first team as well as the athlete of the year? Are you looking at the athlete's record over the current year's indoor and outdoor season, or multiple years of that athlete's performances? How many people are involved in the decision making process? Also, which carries more weight, the PR of the athlete during the season or their place at the IHSA State meet?

Matt Daniels wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm
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Hey Linda,

It is a collaborative effort among The News-Gazette sports staff and the area coaches.

It seems you're just asking about track and field with this particular question, but we do look at results, talk to coaches and certainly weigh how athletes fare in the postseason.

An athlete may run the fastest 100-meter dash early in the season and have that top time all year, but if they can't make it out of the prelims at the state meet, while several other athletes may claim a state title in their respective events, we factor that into the decision-making process as well.

The All-Area teams are something we take pride in and we do receive strong input from area coaches in their respective sports. They know their teams, and some opposing teams, a lot better than any media type does. We still have three more to unveil from the spring in boys' tennis, softball and baseball, and all will be done so in the next 10 days before our annual Prep Sports Year in Review hits newstands on July 9.

 

myattitude wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Does Whitman's plan include expanding the size of the playing field in the indoor facility? My understanding is that had been desired.

Matt Daniels wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm
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Hey myattitude,

If Illinois could expand the playing field at the Irwin Indoor Facility, that would be a bonus.

Right now, it's only 80 yards long and the ceiling is a bit low, so it's not uncommon for punts and/or field goals, heck, sometimes even passes, to hit the top of the roof.

But Whitman didn't indcate on Tuesday during his media roundtable discussion that the current indoor facility would get renovated with plans to build a separate performance center located next to it.

"It’ll be an attachment to it for now," Whitman said. "At some point, we may need to do something a little more substantial with the indoor, but I don’t see that right now although we’re always looking at different options."

Anonymous User wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Where is the final rankings for softball as well as the all-area teams?

Matt Daniels wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm
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Hey anonymous,

Thanks for the interest. The final rankings for the high school softball season, along with the All-Area Teams, Player of the Year, etc., will be in Sunday's News-Gazette.

The plan is to have All-Area boys' tennis in the June 26 edition, with All-Area baseball set to wrap up our All-Area selections for the spring on Sunday, July 2.

Anonymous User wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm

I undrestand that Josh Whitman is going to be at a press conference in Chicago with a number of NHL people "in support of college hockey."  Given that Illinois currently has only a club team, do you think they will be making hockey a varsity sport at U of I?  If so, does that mean a women's sport has to be added?  Where would a varsity team play?  If you have never seen the Goggin Ice Center at Miami University, that might be a great model.

Matt Daniels wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm
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Hey anonymous,

You understand correctly.

Josh Whitman was already planning to be in Chicago anyway on Friday for the UI's Hall of Fame Gala event at the Field Museum of Natural History, but the Illinois athletic director will always be speaking at a press conference on Friday afternoon at the United Center before the NHL draft, along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and other NHL big-wigs.

All indications at this point seem to point towards the direction of a feasibility study, possibly exploring the options of whether Illinois could, at some point, get a varsity hockey team.

Not too sure if a men's hockey team is eventually added if a women's team would need to be added, but common sense dicatates that it might need to be in order to comply with Title IX regulations.

The UI Ice Arena is currently undergoing a renovation, so perhaps that is the venue if, and again, it's all speculation at this point, Illinois someday gets a hockey team. Or perhaps Illinois builds a new Olympic sports venue that would include a hockey arena, among other amenities. Time will tell.

 

Kid Rock wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm

 Matt,          When is Lawson due to get on campus?  Did he have to finish summer school there first?  I see WR's and RB's verballing, but what about guys in the trenches? We all know it's about the beasts you need on the DL and OL.  Any more camps coming up?  Who might be our next commit?  Thanks as always for your info. 

Matt Daniels wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm
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Hey Kid Rock,

Don't know when, or if, Dwayne Lawson will get on the Illinois campus.

The quarterback, who committed to Illinois this past winter, had to take care of some academic issues, which is why he didn't sign with the Illini in February as was expected.

Illinois does have two linemen so far in the 2018 class in Danville's Julian Pearl and Belleville Althoff's Jordyn Slaughter.

Getting some help along the defensive line is always a must, and an area Illinois has struggled to land difference-making players in previous recruiting classes. The defensive line underperformed last season, even with NFL draft pick Dawuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips, who is trying to make the Jaguars roster along with Smoot, having solid seasons.

Illinois is nearing the end of camp season as most of the coaching staff will likely take a few weeks of vacation here coming up soon before training camp arrives on July 31. Big Ten Media Days is a little less than a month away from its annual stop in Chicago, a good indication that college football is right around the corner.

Matt Daniels wrote on June 22, 2017 at 2:06 pm
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Thanks for all the questions on a wide variety of topics. Always keeps me on my toes.

Check out Friday's N-G for a week-by-week look at area high school football schedules as the IHSA released all of those earlier today, along with a look at Anaya Peoples, the standout guard from Schlarman, committing to Notre Dame and much more.

Enjoy the rest of your week everyone.