Nov. 13 Bob Asmussen chat

Nov. 13 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, November 13, 2017 - 10:00am

Who will play quarterback for Illinois against Ohio State? What would a winless Big Ten season mean to the Illini? How is recruiting going for Lovie Smith's team?

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 13, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. I will be here for about an hour.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I was home alone, so I had lots of quality time watching football and hanging with my dog Murphy.

I spent a large chunk of Saturday at Memorial Stadium for the Illinois-Indiana game. Illinois played OK on defense, but the offense continues to be a struggle. There are a lot of injured players and a lot of young guys playing, so that explains some of it. The team is on its way to the first 0-9 conference season in school history. The games have generally been closer, so that is progress. Hard to tell if the program is moving in the right direction. I see that at Purdue, Indiana and Rutgers. For now, those schools are the primary competition for the Illini.

I think the Illinois players are continuing to compete hard and they have not given up. It must be difficult for the seniors, who are ending what has to be disappointing careers. One bowl game and two fired coaches. Not the way you want to spend your college years.

Enough blathering, time to get on to your questions.

As always, thank you for your participation.

Anonymous User wrote on November 13, 2017 at 10:11 am

Well how is FB recruiting going for Ilinois? What do you think the perception of the Illinois FB program is among the state HS coaches? I look at surroundng schools like Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin, and even Indiana being able to attract Illinois HS players with greater success than the flagship university of this state. That is very disconcerting and has to change for us going forward don't you think? I know the talent in Illinois is not as good as places like Texas, Ohio, Florida, etc. But if we have 20-25 in-state kids who can make significant contributions at the D1 level I would think we should be able to get anywhere from 6-10 a year wouldn't you? I know alot of schools come here to recruit, but we still should have more success than we do. If Wisconsin has 10  kids within their borders bet they get at least 8 of them. The exodus of this talent has to stop for consistent success. Also we seem to be unable to get much from surrounding areas. Can we get anybody from the burgeoning St.Louis area and Chicago and its suburbs on a consistent basis? It is good to see us going to Florida, Texas, and even California, but I think you need a good base from within Illinois and within say 200 miles of Champaign to achieve success on a yearly basis, and then work your way out. Just my opinion.

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 13, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Anon,

 

You are spot on with your comments. The key to long-term success for Illinois football is to land some of the best in the state. And from nearby states. I do believe Illinois is having some success in the St. Louis area. I think Lovie Smith's history there is a help. And it helped that Missouri was such a mess, though that seems to be changing.

I talked to national recruiting guru Tom Lemming late last week. First, he told me it is not a great year in the Illinois high schools for talent. No obvious All-Americans like there have been in recent years. There are still good players, of course, but not to the usual level.

There are some concerns from the recruitng experts about the work being done by Illinois. The school will sign its share of players. But to get better in the near future, it needs to land classes like Ron Zook was able to bring in early in his Illinois career. The 2007 Rose Bowl team was a combination of players left by Ron Turner and good, younger players brought in by Zook. Unlike the current staff, Zook's coaches had a niche area (Washington D.C.) that paid off in a big way.

Unfortunately for Illinois, the state is always going to be recruited by other schools. But the current staff needs to limit the impact, especially of schools from the lower half of the Big Ten.

Illini Football Fan wrote on November 13, 2017 at 10:11 am

Bob -

With season essentially over and likely no more wins, coaches soon will focus on recruiting. What's the latest vibe on recruiting? 

Thank you

 

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 13, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Illini Football Fan,

Great to hear from you. There are some changes in this year's recruiting. First, the early signing date, which I think will help Illinois in most years. If the school signs all the players current on its list, the coaches will be free to spend the remaining time going after high-end players and trying to fill glaring needs.

The key is the staff has to work harder than everybody else. Every other school is going to point to Illinois' record and the lack of recent success. The Illinois staff can counter with the truth: they will play freshmen. No doubt about that.

This is a huge recruiting year for the Illinois staff. The coaches need to upgrade the talent for both 2018 and into the future.

I don't have a lot of faith in recruiting rankings, but I think it is important  for Illinois to start moving up the list. I just checked Rivals and Illinois is currrently No. 72. That is not a great sign. Ohio State and Penn State are currently No. 1 and 2.

There is time for the Illinois staff to get better in this year's recruiting class. I know there are high-end players on the list. It can't be easy to sell the 2-8 record.

StevenI wrote on November 13, 2017 at 10:11 am

Good morning, Bob.  Thanks, as always, for your time.  I'm finding myself more alone in the minority of folks who remain optimistic for the future of Illini football.  It's almost as if winning the first two games of the season was detrimental to the fanbase, some of whom clearly most have thought, "Maybe we CAN scratch together a competitive season."  In reality, though, we all should have known that the product on the field would have looked as it does now.  Lots of youth, little depth, lots of growing pains.  What's difficult is to see some repeated mistakes/penalties and a seeming lack of discipline. Some of that is surely the youth at play, yes, but some of the blame certainly lands with the coaching staff.  Whatever the case, we're left with just a couple more weeks ahead of us to find possible silver linings.  Here's where i'm hanging my hat:  Put a scare into Northwestern in the finale.  We love beating Northwestern, and I think executing a winning gameplan vs. the Wildcats would end the season with the good feelings we need.  I'm crazy, I know, but I want to see it happen!

 

(Sorry, not really a quesiton here; so you can just tell me I'm crazy.)

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 13, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Steven,

 

I would never tell you that you are crazy. You are a fan and you want to see your school do well.

I am an Atlanta Braves fan. I care about them more than any other team. They have been brutal the last few years, but I always look for a silver lining. That's what got me through all the awful years before the team won 14 division titles in a row. If you have faith, there is usually a payoff. And you have the satisfaction of hanging in there.

I have always said that Illinois has the potential be consistently good in football. This year, makes it hard for the fans to see it. But it is possible. It won't happen without great effort and a lot of luck.

Right now you can point back to a single mistake made by the administration that has the program where it is: the failure to support and keep Ron Zook toward the end of his career. Another win or two for Zook earlier this decade and he might still be here. That was a poor decision from the top.

But it is not hopeless. There seems to always be a bounceback. But it requires patience I know that is hard for the fans.

Illini Football Fan wrote on November 13, 2017 at 10:11 am

What's your take on Lovie Smith's overall performance to date? Taking in factors like youth, injuries, depth, coaching issues, what grade would you give to Lovie, his coordinators, and coaches to date? (Individually and as a group)?

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 13, 2017 at 11:11 am
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Illini Football Fan,

 

I am not an easy grader, so right now, I think it would have to b e D.

I think the defensive staff deserves a higher grade. The offensive staff has really struggled in trying to move the ball against Big Ten defenses. On the ground and in the air. I don't like the two-quarterback system. Never have. Never will. Do you ever see it in the NFL? Of course not. And when is the last time it worked at a high level in college? Rare.

The coaches obviously can't control the injuries. So, they have been hurt quite a bit by guys being unable to play. But the massive use of freshmen, some of whom aren't ready to play, has been there choice. I get it. I understand wanting to see them on the field and get a jump on the future. But you wonder if playing some of the older players more might have led to more success on the field. I don't think there is any question that older players are better prepared to compete in the Big Ten. I thought it was a mistake when Kendrick Foster was kept off the field and that has turned out to be correct.

I think the coaches can get better. Just like the players. I think Lovie Smith is relearning the college game and he has to be given time to do that.

Anonymous User wrote on November 13, 2017 at 11:11 am

A year ago Illinois made changes in the recruiting department. Wat do you think successful or not? When they get the okay for an extra assistant coach, will that position be stricly dedicated to recruiting or what. In an earlier post you said you see improvement in schools like Rutgers and Purdue this year. Could it be that the Illini talent level is so bad and the cupboard was left extremely bare for Lovie and his staff? If so we will have to be extremely persuasive in getting recruits to come here. Are they going after quality guys and shooting for moon in some cases, or are we settling for recruiting and signing players who are not Big Ten quality talent/

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 13, 2017 at 11:11 am
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Anon,

 

I do think the talent level was low when the current staff took over. but the previous staff won five games and the current staff won three and now two. So, I don't think the answer is all about talent.

Great question about the 10th assistant coach. My guess is that person will be heavily involved in recruiting. It might be a deal where you give the new coach a position and let him lead recruiting.

A lot will depend on who it is and where the coach is from. I think a great decision would be to add someone with Illinois ties. Either a former player or someone from the state. That would help link the new coach to the high schools in the state. I'm not sure who that person is.

I will ask Coach Smith about the 10th assistant today and see what his plans are for the position. I will be curious about his ideas. As much planning as he does, I am guessing he has thought a lot about it.

What has happened at some schools is they have added staff members who will move into that 10th assistant role as soon as it becomes OK to do so. Smart move by those schools.

Actually, Illinois has the guy on staff now who I would add: Nathan Scheelhaase. He loves the place and will be a great recruiter. A future head coach in my opinion. May beyond his years in terms of knowledge and maturity. Plus, a tremendous person.

 

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 13, 2017 at 11:11 am
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I am going to cut off the chat for today. Thanks for all of 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. please stop by "The News-Gazette Sports Page" at the Esquire. The St. Thomas More state champion volleyball team will be our guests.

Have a great week.