Nov. 20 Bob Asmussen chat

Nov. 20 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, November 20, 2017 - 10:00am

How did the Illini look against Ohio State? Who will start at quarterback in the season finale against Northwestern? What changes, if any, will Lovie Smith make to his staff after the season? 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 20, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. Sorry for the late start.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I went to my second favorite building in the Big Ten, Ohio Stadium, to watch Illinois play against the Buckeyes. Not much of a game, but an unbelievable rainstorm.

Hard to believe Illinois once dominated the series. The Ohio State program is obviously one of the best in the country. The fans love the game, which is cool to see.

Let me thank you once again for participating. It is fun to answer your questions.

I will be here for about 45 minutes, then have to run over to Josh Whitman's press conference. In case you haven't heard, the school is building a Dick Butkus statue. Great idea.

Enough stalling, time to get to your questions.



southern Illini fan wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am

This is really not a question but an observation that I wish for you to comment on. It appears we will be winless in the B10 which brings me to an experience I had with my son and his junior and senior year in high school football. Our school was floundering in mediocrity and changing coaches quite regularly. The coach at the high school while he was in jr. high was fired and after his sophomore year and losing records the coach was fired bringing in another head coach his junior year. After two more losing seasons with the second worse than the first a school board friend of mine came to me and asked if they should look for another coach. I said I am not a football strategist but it appears to me if you continue to change coaches as often as we have this is what we are destined to see, losing records. Then I said one day you are going to have to decide to keep someone and give them a chance and it might as well be this one. They did and now about 20 years later with that same coach they have only missed the playoffs a time or two, gone to the semifinals in the state tournament at least 3 times and the coach now has 150+ wins. Can this be applied to Lovie Smith?  

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Southern Illini fan,


Great story. Yes, it can be applied to Lovie Smith. Or Bill Cubit. Or Tim Beckman. Or Ron Zook. Or Ron Turner.

I agree that changing coaches every five years guarantees you will never be good. Some might say the issue with Lovie Smith is his age. But to me, he looks like he is in his 40s. He can be here a long time from a physcical stanpoint. I wonder if the losing might get to him to the point where he starts looking around for another job. I think anything is possible. But as I wrote after the Ohio State game, the school has made a commitment to football. There is no on-field pressure on him right now. He has the time. The key, both now and into the future, is his ability to bring high-quality people and players to the campus. Do that and he will win. And might stay for a long time. I don't think there is any easy answer to the Illinois football problem right now other than patience. And I know that is a lot to ask of the fans. To me, the good start for men's basketball takes some of the pressure off.

Red Grange wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am

Recently, the football team posted a job opening for an assistant coaching position to be filled in January. What type of coach do you think Illinois should be looking to add? Is there a specific position group that you think this coach may address directly? And finally, who are some possible candidates for the job?

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Red Grange,

If they listen to me (I'm sure that will never happen) I can fill the job right now: Nathan Scheelhaase. He is already on the staff, knows and loves the place and had a good relationship with the coaches on the staff. I would make him quarterbacks coach. He was the kind of quarterback that the program is looking for. Certainly, he can coach a guy who is just like him.

I think it is important to hire someone who is young, energetic and a good recruiter. Scheelhaase checks all the boxes. I hope the school is smart enough to have already arranged this. That way, Nathan can hit the ground running and help the program immediately.

I wrote this last week: if he wants it, he will be a head coach someday. Probably a great one. The best-case scenario is that it be here.

As a person, he is one of the best I have ever known in 30 years covering Illinois. I think he will be a great recruiter because of his personality. What parent wouldn't want their son to play for a guy like him?


Mike Foster wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am


Should we be concerned with the losses or see them as part of the remaking of the program? You never want a losing record, but sometimes it is hard to see the progression with the results.

Are our offensive problems a result of scheme, talent or youth?

Like you, I am a glass half full kind, so here is to the future.

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am
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Mike Foster,


Ron Zook won two games each of his first two seasons. Then won nine and went to the Rose Bowl. With his team, you saw the talent level rise quickly. There was no question the team was getting better. It became real sooner than most figured it would.

It takes time to turn a football program. I don't think the talent level was quite as bad has been stated. The team won five games the year before Lovie Smith took over and just missed a bowl game.

Overall, I think the defense is better now than when Lovie Smith took over. The offense is another story. I think the problems on offense are part talent, part scheme and part youth. I'm not sure there is a quick fix. But the experience the young linemen are getting now will pay off down the road. We don't know when.


Anonymous User wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am

In observing the 2017 Illini I have come to a few conclusions.  So many freshman had to play and they have hit a wall, both physically and mentally. Look at them compared to the teams of the last several weeks. 18 and 19 years going up against the experience at Wisconsin, Ohio State, and even Purdue and Indiana. With an off season of conditioning and films and work on techniques they should be much better next year and even more so in 2019, especially in line play. Injuries have hurt a team that has virtally no depth. This is where the necessity of good classes year after year come to the fore. Lastly playmakers, we have some but not enough. Hopefully the next few years of recruiting will cure this program. Thanks for  letting me voice my opinion.

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am
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A lot of great points. The only difference between what was done and what I would have done is how many freshmen were used. If the older players had been given more time and the freshmen redshirted, there would be little or no difference in the record. And the school would have the players for four more years. The gains will be made whether the players were on the field this year or not. I think the offseason will be critical and I do think there will be a positive jump in 2018. Enough to go bowling? Doubt it. But at least another win or two and closer losses.

Anonymous User wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am

I know you believe that there will be some changes in the coaching staff next year.  Do you have any ideas what changes might be in the offing?  Also, what is the theory behind flipping offensive linemen every play?  In your opinion, is it effective?  To my eye, it only looks like the line is confused. 

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am
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I don't know yet what changes will be made. But I do know that Lovie Smith isn't satisfied with how the season went and will be looking for improvement. I think the changes will be on offense.

As for the flipping lines, I believe that was something Luke Butkus learned from Harry Hiestand, his mentor. I agree that the players look confused at times, but I think Butkus has to coach the way he thinks will work best. He knows a lot more about line play than I do.

If you ask the players, they like Butkus and will not criticize the way they are used.

StevenI wrote on November 20, 2017 at 10:11 am

Good morning, Bob.  Nothing about Saturday's game in Columbus changed my positive outlook on the future of Illini football.  I'm trusting the process, and i like the ability of many of these very young players who look to be contributors for several years.  In fact, our next game v. OSU isn't until November of 2020.  A lot of young men who were on the field for the Illini this weekend should also be playing big roles when that game kicks off as well, and I expect a much different result!

But as we stay the course, what's one big thing -- other than a big W, like an upset of Northwestern this weekend -- that could get more good feelings going for the alumni and fan base?  Is there a slam dunk hire for an assistant coach that could help?  Or what about huge national recruit choosing the Illini?  The latter is obviously what got the train running for Zook.


Thanks for your time, and i hope you have a great week

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 20, 2017 at 11:11 am
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Hope you have a great week too.

Great point about the next game against Ohio State. I assume the teams will be a lot different then and the game will be closer. Who knows, maybe Illinois will be a 41-point favorite.

The slam dunk already happened today. Building a Dick Butkus statue next to the new facility is a great move by the school and long overdue in my opinion. The facility itself is a huge boost for the program.

I think the school needs to land a Martez Wilson or Arrelious Benn level recruit in this class. A star receiver, running back or defensive player. That will help going into the spring and summer.

I will keep you posted.

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 20, 2017 at 11:11 am
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I am so sorry, but I have to cut the chat off for today. Sorry about any questions I didn't get to.

I will be back next wek at the same time. If you have any questions between now and then, feel free to email me at

If you are in downtown Champaign tonight, please stop by the Esquire for "The News-Gazette Sports Page." Our guests will be Ema Rajic, a state champion swimmer from Uni.

Happy T-day everyone.