Nov. 6 Bob Asmussen chat

Nov. 6 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, November 6, 2017 - 10:00am

How did the Illini look at Purdue? Is the two-quarterback system here to stay? How is recruiting going for Lovie Smith?

 

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 November 06, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. Sorry for the late start. It will never happen again. OK, I will try to make sure it doesn't happen again.

I will be here for about an hour, then have an interview with Illini offensive lineman Christian DiLauro. Thanks as always for your participation. This is really my favorite part of the week.

 

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I spent most of Saturday in West Lafayette, watching Purdue beat Illinois. That is seven losses in a row for Lovie Smith's team. Not the way I thought it would go.

Saturday's home game against Indiana is the best chance for the team to win in its final three games. I don't see the Illini beating Ohio State or Northwestern. The Hoosiers, who have played close games in the Big Ten, are a touchdown favorite.

What a crazy weekend in college football. Iowa's lopsided win against Ohio State was a stunner. So was Michigan State's home win against Penn State. You have to like how well the Spartans bounced back from a tough loss the previous week.

Enough stalling, time to get to your questions.

 

Anonymous User wrote on November 06, 2017 at 10:11 am

Bob:

Lovie was always ran some form of the "Tampa 2" defense in the pros.  That, of course, is primarily a zone coverage.  Numerous times this season the announcers on television have said that the Illini primarily play man-to-man in the secondary, which is one of the reasons they have given up some significant rushing yardage .  

Any idea why the change in philosophy?  Would the team be better in zone coverage?  

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 06, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Anon,

 

I am going to use Lovie Smith's words to give you an answer: He tries to call plays based on what he belives gives his team the best chance for success. That tells me that he doesn't believe he has the level of talent on defense he thinks is necessary to run his traditional defense.

I also think that Lovie Smith has run into some different offenses in the college game than in the NFL. In the pro game, everyone runs some version of the same plays. In college, there is more variety and I think the staff is learning to adjust to that.

Lovie Smith likes to talk about the technical aspects of football. If I get a chance this week, I will ask him if what the announcers are saying is true and that he is actually using more man-to-man coverage than in the past.

To me, the defense hasn't been the major problem for this team. It has been the offense. You can't win games when you only score 10 points. In recent weeks at least, the defense has come closer to doing its job than the offense. I understand what Lovie Smith wants to do on offense, but I don't think he has the guys on the current team to make it work. Maybe in future years, it will look better.

 

teachdacc2 wrote on November 06, 2017 at 10:11 am

Bob,

Thanks for the great coverage of Illini Football.  Are  you at all concerned about the disappearance of the older, Jr and Sr, players in favor of true Freshman who as we see weekly they are undersized and weaker in comparison to the more experienced players on other teams?  I find it hard to believe that Gabe isn't "wiser, stronger" than the freshman.  Seems like the coaches are tossing the more mature players on the scrap heap.  I wonder if Gabe, Jeff George, Crouch will all transfer at season end. 

 

Look forward to your assessment.   

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 06, 2017 at 10:11 am
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teachcacc2,

 

Troubled might not be the right word. Curious works better.

The coaches keep saying that they put the players on the field that give them the best chance to win. I disagree. I think Christian DiLaruo is better than some of the freshmen linemen who are on the field now. I promise that opposing defenses are excited to see all those young guys line up. It is not the fault of the players. They are not ready to play at a high level, or even a modest level, in the Big Ten. It takes a year or two of growth to be ready. Check out how many first-year freshmen are on the offensive line at Wisconsin or Penn State or Ohio State. My guess is none or maybe one.

If I was in charge which I am not, I would have played the older guys, redshirted most of my freshmen and gained the benefit in later seasons. The exception would be a few of the skill players like Nate Hobbs, Bennett Williams and Ricky Smalling, who were closer to ready. But freshmen are not ready to play on the offensive line and I  think it is also hard for the defensive linemen.

Bottom line, I think you are right. I would find a way to keep Gabe Megginson on the field.

Yes, there will be some transfers after the season. Not sure which guys and nobody has said a word. But when you are behind freshmen on the depth chart, the only chance to play is to go somewhere else.

 

Arch 1973 wrote on November 06, 2017 at 10:11 am

Bob, FB season has not been pretty.  There seems to be some improvement on defense, esp in the first halves, then they wear down.  There are some issues with coaching.  In the Iowa game, there were two special teams trick plays, the on side kick and the fake punt.  Both of those came in high likelyhood scenarios.  We got a 15 yd penalty after the Iowa score and they were kicking off from the 50, the team did the standard drop back.  Wouldn't you think the staff would have alerted them to guard against an on side, because Iowa was not going to give up too bad field position if they would have failed.  Similarly the fake punt was on the U of I side of the field, not a great sacrifice if it fails, esp against a relatively mediocre offense.  On both of these plays the team was not prepped for the eventuality and that is a coaching issue.  The play calling on offense often looks inept.  The quarterback shuffle does not give either one an opportunity to get in a groove or improve.  Chase Crouch had some fundamental problems in a roll of college quarterack.  Why was that not evaluated during spring and summer practices.  He was run in at the start of the season as the great QB hope, 4 games into the season he is gone. 

If the U of I wants to rebrand, we can call ourselves the "Cicadas", come out and make some noise every 13-17 years, the rest of the time just be underground.

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 06, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Arch 1973,

 

You make a lot of great points. I especially agree with what you write about Chayce Crouch. All summer, we heard he is the guy. And now he doesn't get on the field. That should have been known before the season started.

I agree that the two quarterback system does not work. Especially for a young offense trying to find itself. The combination of injuries, youth and coaching decisions has made it difficult for the team to win games, The blame can be spread to all corners, but must start with the coaching staff. Everyone has injuries. So that can't be used as an excuse. And the youth of the team, at least in some way, was a decision made by the staff.

The big question is what will the experience the players are getting now mean in the future? It could be a very good thing. But we will have to be patient to get the answer.

Anonymous User wrote on November 06, 2017 at 10:11 am

After a hopeful beginning to Illini FB for 2017, we see the more realistic results. I think the downturn can be summed up in a few observations. 1) Lack of depth especially the JR/SR classes. After 2-3 years in a program these are the players that should be the heart of your team and moving it forward. We have been forced to play Freshman who are both physically and mentally not up to the challenge yet and although they may be gaining experienced they are being beaten down also. Just check both lines for this. 2) Watch the game real close and you will see a difference in a lack of team speed and athleticism versus their Big Ten brethen. Thay can't turn the corner on sweeps and can't contain the other teams in their opportunites. 3) Lack of difference makers both on offense and defense. You get practically nothing from the QB or RB positions and in turn this has an effect on the WR and OL positions. They can't score. I think their is more promise on the defense, but they are left out on the field far to long especially in the 2nd half, and are consistently playing from behind instead of with a lead.  The state of the FB program regressed under Gunther and Thomas. Their bad hires and firings( I think at least in the case of Zook) have what really set Illini FB back years. I look at Alvarez at Wisconsin and Ferentz at Iowa. Neither of them won until at least their 3rd years. The patience to give them time and grow their programs into what the Illini program would envy and in my opinion should be is what should happen. You could make a case that the Illini program is worse off than when those two started. I look at Lovie and all though this is his second year its really only his first recruiting class. Hopefully Josh gives him the time and resources with which to build and he is successful. My father use to say th first half of his life Illinois FB pretty good, the last half not very good. I wish I could say the opposite, but that would't be true. Sorry for being so long winded, but time is passing by too fast. Thanks!

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 06, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Anon2,

 

No apologies neeeded. You make a lot of very strong points and I agree with everything you wrote.

The last point is the most important. This is going to take time. Fans and media can't expect instant success. This is three- or four-year fix.

Lovie Smith's contact takes care of the patience part. The six-year deal means he has time to turn it around. If he doesn't get it done, then there will be another change. But not this year or next. If in Year 5 the team is still struggling, then there will be serious discussions about his future.

Illini Football Fan wrote on November 06, 2017 at 10:11 am

Bob -

Are you disappointed at the coaches ability to develop or upcoach the players so far? Or perhaps disappointed at their game management? Or lagging in recruiting for next year? If you were AD Whitman or/and HC Smith, what would you do or do differently to prevent further free fall? Other than (more) play time, how can you convince a top recruit to come to Illinois? 

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 06, 2017 at 11:11 am
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Illini Football Fan,

 

I never thought Lovie Smith would jump in and win right away. For one thing, he had been away from the college game for a long time and had to make some adjustments. No matter what he says, it is a different game.

I think there will be some changes to the staff after the season and those will address some of your concerns.

As for how to draw top players to Illinois, the school is a great selling point. And so are the facilities and tradition. I would point out Red Grange and Dick Butkus at every turn. And I would use Lovie Smith's NFL experience.

Bottom line, not every great player will want to come to Illinois. But the program doesn't need every great player. It just needs some of them. Illinois can make a big jump by working harder than everyone else and doing a great job of evaluating the prospects.

I have written this many times: Illlinois football can win consistently. It just needs the right person in charge to get it done.

Illini Football Fan wrote on November 06, 2017 at 11:11 am

Bob -

Is there any chance that Lawson Juco QB be recruited again given the extra year to fix his school work? Or what are his most likely options after graduating from his JC? Is there a similarly talented JC dual threat QB that coaches and fans get excited about?

I believe this is key for next year to give QB Cam Thomas and other QB freshmen more time to grow.

Thanks.

 

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 06, 2017 at 11:11 am
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Illini Football Fan,

 

I don't think Dwayne Lawson will come to Illinois for next season. I could be wrong, but the coaches couldn't have been happy that he didn't make it for this season. His career has been very inconsistent and there is no guarantee he can play at a high level. I think they will move on to the guys they have coming and the players on hand.

I think the current offense shows that a two-quarterback system doesn't usually work. The defenses know what to expect when Cam Thomas is on the field. That makes it very difficult for the player. I think he will be much better in 2018, when he can go over some of the many lessons he learned. He is a talented athlete with a strong arm. The mental part gets better every week.

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 06, 2017 at 11:11 am
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Sorry to do this, but I have to cut off the chat for today. I apologize for any questions I didn't get to.

I will be back next week 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, please stop by the Esquire for "The News-GazetteSports Page."

Have a great week.