Oct. 2 Bob Asmussen chat

Oct. 2 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, October 2, 2017 - 10:00am

What went wrong for the Illini against Nebraska? Will Lovie Smith make any major lineup changes? How will Iowa respond coming off a close loss to Michigan State?

For the answers to these questions, and anything else on your mind, check in with our longtime Illinois football beat writer.

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 02, 2017 at 10:10 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. I will be here for about an hour, then will be going to Lovie Smith's weekly press conference.

Thanks as always for your participation. Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Friday night did not go well for Illinois football. With Hall of Famers in attendance, including the great Dick Butkus, the team played a poor game against a beatable team. Now, the Illini have to get ready for Iowa, which figures to be plenty angry after losing a second close game.

We will learn a lot about the ability and character of the Illinois team based on how it performs Saturday in Iowa City. If the team plays a close game, win or lose, it will be a positive sign for the rest of the season.

All reasonable expectations had Illinois at 2-2 at this point. But the fact that the last two games were so lopsided is troubling for fans. I just took a call from an Illinois fan in Florida, who is always positive about the program, and he is worried about what is going on with the team.

Enough stalling, time to get to your questions.


myattitude wrote on October 02, 2017 at 10:10 am

I understand why most people look at Lovie as being in a three year building project and we should not expect much this year. However, I am beginning to think this is at least a four year project based on the performances this year against the the two better teams we have played and even that may not be long enough if the recruited talent does not improve soon. I don't see the talent on the field and some of the better talent we do have this year is not being used or cannot be used due to other personel problems. It might get hot for both Lovie and Whitman. What do you think?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 02, 2017 at 10:10 am
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Illinois gave Lovie Smith a six-year deal for a reason. The program he inherited had some serious talent gaps in the older classes. Guys either left early or didn't pan out, It happens.

One thing being overlooked, in my opinion, is Lovie Smith's adjustment back to college. When he was in the pros, after a performance like Friday night, Lovie would have been able to cut a bunch of guys. That doesn't work in college. You have the team in front of you and there are no in-season additions.

Lovie Smith expressed his frustration after the game in the press conference. It was like he was looking for answers too.

The young guys will get better. Nothing beats experience. But they will take their share of lumps. I saw it in the early years of Ron Turner, Ron Zook and Tim Beckman. Those teams all improved, generally in the third year.

At Illlinois, I have found the old saying to be true when it comes to a new coaching era: Lose big the first year, lose close the second year and win close the third year. So far, the normal second year isn't going as planned. But there is still time,

Like I wrote in the opening, the performance against Iowa is extremely important. If it goes horribly bad, like 40-10, then Illinois fans should worry. If it is a closer game, say 10 points or so, then the team is right where it should be.

And needless to say, a home win against Rutgers on Oct. 14 is critical.


die hard U of I guy wrote on October 02, 2017 at 10:10 am

What's with the Cordel Littlejohn situation? I like to think of my beloved U of I as a high integrety institution and if we in fact did pull an offer simply because we had other players commiting and didn't want Cordel any longer, that's not right. On the other hand, if there was some legitimate reason to pull the offer, like we found out that he is actually a notorious drug dealer, then that's a different story. Do you know what happened? 

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 02, 2017 at 10:10 am
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Die hard U of I guy,


I don't have much more in the way of details, But I do have a theory:

When the Illinois coaches received the third quarterback commitment from M.J. Rivers, they might have realized they couldn't afford to have three quarterbacks in the class. There are too many other needs. My guess is they valued Rivers more than Littlejohn, so they let him know he was no longer in their plans.

I understand the player's frustration with the situation. He accepted an offer and expected them to honor that offer. But by making it known now that he was no longer in their plans the coaches helped Littlejohn pursue other options. It would have been very bad had they pulled the plug in December.

Scholarships get pulled all the time. The reason this situation is different is because the player let people know about it.

Understand the coaches can't tell the media anything about recruiting. All the information comes from players,high school coaches and parents. I'm going to follow this and see what happens with Littlejohn in the future. If I was a player and was angry about the way I was treated, I would sign with a school that played them every year. Then, I would do my best to beat that team.



Anonymous Jim wrote on October 02, 2017 at 10:10 am

Good morning Bob, will they consider a QB change or is Crouch the man because of his mobility?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 02, 2017 at 10:10 am
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Anonymous Jim,

If the coaches didn't make a change on Friday, I don't they will make one now, They have clearly made a commitment to Chayce Crouch and I think his ability to run their offense is the reason.

Now, would I give Jeff George Jr. a shot against Iowa? Absolutely, especially if the offense continues to sputter. I don't think all of the blame falls to Crouch. He is not getting enough help from the players around him and I think the play calling isn't helping either.

One overlooked aspect of this deal is that Jeff George Jr. isn't a statue. I often joke with him that his dad couldn't run, which is true. But Jr. has more mobility than he is given credit for. Plus, he is a solid passer.

Opponents are daring Chayce Crouch to throw the ball, figuring he won't always be on target, It will be harder for him to run in the future as opposing defenses understand the Illinois plan.

I don't think there is a full-fledged quarterback controversy, but it is moving that way.


Anonymous User wrote on October 02, 2017 at 10:10 am

Lovie suggested that the whole team didn't play good. To a crtain extent that is true, but not being able to put  any points on the board is the real killer. Hopefully the QBs that we recruiuted can change that seeing how everything offensively revolves around the QB. I gave faith in the Illini becoming a good defense, but for the rest of the class of 2018 wouldn't you say we need a playmaker or two for the offense? Really shouldn't we look at this as Lovie's first year because of when he was hired? With the experience the young guys are getting this year doesn't this bode well for the future, next year and especially 2019 and beyond? If we can build good class after good class then we could establish depth and a talented roster and be good year after year right? Isn't that why the AD gave him a six year contract to show recruits he has the time and confidence of the school to build a winner? Unless I'm mistaken Alvarez didn't win at Wisconsin until year 3, the same as Ferentz at Iowa. Those two guys have been the faces of those programs, and the thing they had in common was the time and commitment from those schools.I sure would take those schools record for the past 20 years wouldn't you?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 02, 2017 at 11:10 am
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You make a lot of great points. You are right, the six-year deal was a sign of faith from Illinois.

I do believe the talent level will improve. The only issue for the current staff is that future recruits need proof that the program is going in the right direction, It doesn't have to be a winning season or a bowl game. But the team needs to be competitive against good teams.

The win against Western Kentucky might have falsely raised expectations, at least for a short time. Looking back, Illinois could have lost to Ball State. The feeling toward a 1-3 Illinois team would not have been good.

The next two classes are very important for Lovie Smith. He needs impact players on both sides of the ball. Think of Ron Zook's great early recruits: Juice Williams, Vontae Davis, Arrelious Benn. Those guys played key roles in going to the Rose Bowl. It can happen here again, but it will take time. Because of the six-year deal, which you mentioned, Lovie Smith has the time.

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 02, 2017 at 11:10 am
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I am going to cut the chat off for today. Thanks as always for your great questions. I will be back next Monday at the same time.

If you have any questions between now and then, feel free to email me at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

If you are in town tonight, stop by the Esquire for "The News-Gazette Sports Page." Illinois volleyball coach Chris Tamas will be our guest.

Have a great week and enjoy the baseball playoffs.