Jan. 29 Bob Asmussen chat

Jan. 29 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, January 29, 2018 - 10:00am

Who will fill the two vacancies on the Illinois football staff? What are the priorities for the final six spots in the 2018 recruiting class? How many graduate transfers will Lovie Smith add?

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 January 29, 2018 at 10:01 am
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Welcome to another Bob Asmussen chat. Hope everyone had a great weekend.

As always, I watched a lot of TV, mostly sports. Hope you caught Will Ferrell on "Saturday Night Live." Awesome. Great to see him open with W. The only disappointment was I was hoping for "Celebrity Jeopardy." Maybe next time he hosts.

The Illinois men's basketball team picked up its first Big Ten win of the season. I think there will be more to follow, starting with Rutgers on Tuesday.

Lovie Smith introduced his new coaches to the media. Rod Smith and Cory Patterson came across as smart coaches with a plan to help the Illinois program.

Illinois has two opening on defense after the departure of Mike Phair. With practice more than a month away, I don't think Lovie Smith will rush to fill the two spots. He wants to get the right person.

I am happy to see Nathan Scheelhaase land a job in the Power 5. He will do great things at Iowa State. He left open the idea of returning to Illinois in the future.

OK, I have stalled long enough. Time to get to your questions. As always, thanks for participating.




teachdacc2 wrote on January 29, 2018 at 10:01 am

Bob,  Thanks for the great chats; always enjoy your responses to questions.  

With the exit of two coaches will this impact current recruiting?  Really hate to see Nathan leave the program.  Is it concerning that Lovie brought in a HS coach from out of state, even though St. Louis is an important area, which could alienate coaches in the state?  

Does he now have to fill three spots or just two?   thanks again

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 29, 2018 at 10:01 am
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I don't think current recruiting will be impacted in a major way. Most of the 2018 class has already been lockd up and there is more than enough staff members remaining to fill the final six spots. The staff will need to be precise in who they take. There is a priority list, starting with an experienced quarterback, likely a grad transfer.I think that will happen after spring ball, when players across the country see where they fit in. If a quarterback at an FBS school is going to be a backup and wants to play, Illinois provides an opening. I wouldn't be shocked if two grad transfer QBs came to Illinois That would be a good thing for Rod Smith in terms of competition.

I think the potential benefit of adding Cory Patterson outweighs any short-term losses because of unhappy high school coaches. Trinity has more than a dozen players who have the talent to play int he FBS. If Illinois lands a few of those guys, which I think is likely, then hiring Patterson will have already paid off. He is a talented coach that I believe will be very good as a recruiter, especially in St. Louis.

Illinois has two openings on the coaching staff. Scheelhaase was in an analyst role, which I believe Lovie Smith will fill as well. That will likely be someone Rod Smith is comfortable with.


myattitude wrote on January 29, 2018 at 10:01 am

How much trouble do you think the Michigan State University  men's coaches for football and basketball are in? There seems to be a lot of stress on Izzo now as basketball is in session and he is more visible. However, due partly to the size of team there has been more issues I think with the football players.

The Nassar story is putting a lot of heat and inspection on the school with both the NCAA and the state Attorney General looking into activities there.

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 29, 2018 at 10:01 am
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The case in many ways reminds me of what happened at Penn State with Jerry Sandusky. The people at the school were too worried about protecting the image of the program and not worried enough about what happened to the victims. Ultimately, a heavy prce was paid by a lot of people tied to Penn State. I know some thought the four-year postseason ban (later cut to two) was too harsh. I don't think it went far enough.

At Michigan State, the Nassar case is not the end of it. It points to systematic issues at the school that need to be investigated. If it takes some time to get to bottom of it, then that's how it has to be.

With the president and athletic director gone, I think it will be difficult for the coaches to stay in place long term. 

Between this case and what happened at Penn State, we are given another reminder that sports, while an important part of the campus experience, should not be above the law.


Anonymous User wrote on January 29, 2018 at 10:01 am

Thought this would be a rather calm offseason for Illinois FB, but with the coaching shuffle it is anything but. How do you feel about the changes? What are the pros and cons that you see? Will this stuff help in trying to finish up the class of 2018, and going forward does this mean better things for the class of 2019? What do see happening with the D-Line coach? A college man or will Lovie go to his friends in the pros? Also the tenth assistant, will it be a teaching position or more of a recruiter, or both? To bat Nate couldn't stay, but why do I feel there is a good chance he will be back here someday?

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 29, 2018 at 11:01 am
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It's interesting, I asked Lovie Smith at recent press conference if he planned any changes to the staff and he said no. Then, not long afterward, Garrick McGee and Paul Williams were fired. So, it isn't going to happen until it does.

I think the change on the offensive staff had to be done. The unit finished near the bottom of the nation in key statistical categories. It was impossible to expect improvement without a change in leadership.

Now that Rod Smith is in charge, I think recruiting will better suit the needs of his system. That is a good thing.

My guess is that Lovie Smith goes back to the NFL for his next defensive line coach. Just a guess but that is where he spent the bulk of his career.

With the 10th coach, I think Lovie Smith will hire the person he thinks helps the program the most and finds a fit for him on the staff. This is new for all schools.

I think you will see some teams use the 10th spot to coach on important position, depending on the place, If defensive end is important you might hire a coach for just that and have another coach working with the tackles.

Yes, I think there is a chance Nathan Scheelhaase returns to Illinois some day. He has great feelings for the place and his parents live here.


Illini Football Fan wrote on January 29, 2018 at 11:01 am

Bob :

Great article yesterday. When you left after interviewing Lovie, what was the biggest vibe or message that stuck with you afterwards? Did you feel the program is in good hands?



Bob Asmussen wrote on January 29, 2018 at 11:01 am
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Illini Football Fan,

Honestly, the first thing in my head was the beard, which made Lovie Smith look distinguished.

He is a very confident guy. Every time you talk to him, you feel that he feels the program is going in the right direction.

Josh Whitman decided that Lovie Smith was the guy who could turn the Illinois program and showed that confidence with a back-loaded six-year contract. Whitman has put his faith in the coach and will give him every chance to succeed. The leadership at Illinois knew this would take more than two years to get done.

If the team wins four or five games this season, then the corner has been turned. If it repeats the two-win season, then it will be difficult moving forward. But right now, I count at least four wins on the Illinois schedule with the chance for more. It won't happen without a big jump by the offense.


Anonymous User wrote on January 29, 2018 at 11:01 am


Obviously there has been massive change in the Illini football program.  Is this amount of change considered to be a good thing?  I know you are a big Scheelhase fan, but now that he is not going to be an assistant coach and we still have 2 openings, any names to suggest?

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 29, 2018 at 11:01 am
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It was clear something needed to happen on offense, which wasn't working. I think Lovie Smith took the least invasive course of action, removing his coordinator, but leaving the other assistants in place. I am guessing Rod Smith understood who was going to be on his staff when he took the job. Lovie Smith values the rest of the offensive coaches.

Rather than give you names, look to the NFL for the remaining Lovie Smith hires. He has great contacts there and a comfort level with the coaches in the NFL. I think he might bring in another one of his former players.


Illini Football Fan wrote on January 29, 2018 at 11:01 am

Bob -

Where do you think former OC McGee end up and what position title he will likely get?

What's your vibe or feeling with new OC Smith? How many recruits do you think he will pull from West Coast in next month and next year?

Any idea where Tim Beckman is and what will his future p!ans be?


Bob Asmussen wrote on January 29, 2018 at 11:01 am
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Illini Football Fan,


Garrick McGee was at the coaches convention looking for a job. If he lands a job in the Power 5, it won't likely be as an offensive coordinator. More likely coaching a position. What happened here wasn't all his fault. He inherited a tough situation and a talent level that wasn't top notch.It wasn't a good fit.

I liked a lot of what Rod Smith had to say. His work with quarterbacks has been very good. I think any player that joins the offense will be done with his blessing. He has already gone to work on recruiting and I think he will have a major impact.

Tim Beckman is living in Florida. I know he wants to stay involved in football. I have not talked to him since last summer.

StevenI wrote on January 29, 2018 at 11:01 am

Hi Bob.  We've had both good news and bad news for the football staff recently, and i know you're surely disappointed that Nate wasn't retained.  Good spot for him, though, with an up-and-coming Iowa State program.  And maybe he does come back to C-U later.  Hopefully so. 

I think we're also seeing some really positive vibes on the recruting front.  How much do you think Rod Smth's background will help, given that he can reference guys like Denard Robinson having thrived in his system? 


Bob Asmussen wrote on January 29, 2018 at 11:01 am
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The first thing Rod Smith should mention when he is recruiting quarterbacks is the sucess he has had with Robinson, Pat White and the guys at Arizona. When it comes to coaching dual-threat quarterbacks, Smith has a great resume.

One thing I really liked that Rod Smith said was that he is willing to change his offense to fit the talent on hand. Coaches who are willing to adapt tend to have more success and he is one of those guys.

If Cam Thomas can't do everything Smith wants to do offensively, they will find another way. I also think you will see some changes from the way Rich Rodriguez ran his offense. Now that he is on his own, Smith will be free to try things. My guess is that will be appealing to him.

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 29, 2018 at 11:01 am
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I am going to cut the chat off for today. Sorry about any questions I didn't get to.

I will be back at the same time next week. 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. Olympic medalist Katherine Reutter-Adamek will be our guest.

Have a great week everybody. Enjoy the Super Bowl. Go Patriots.