Feb. 20 Bob Asmussen chat

Feb. 20 Bob Asmussen chat

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 10:00am

When will Lovie Smith fill his final coaching vacancy? How is the staff doing with the 2019 recruiting class? What returning player will make the biggest jump during the upcoming season?

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

Bob Asmussen wrote on February 20, 2018 at 9:02 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. I am starting a few minutes early because I have an interview on campus later this morning. That's in sharp contrast to my usual late start.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I spent the last two days visiting another Big Ten school with my son, who is heading off to college next year. It was a nice visit. His selection ceremony will be later in the spring.

Illinois football had a big weekend with many inmportant prospects checking out the place. Illinois is making a stronger push into the St. Louis area.

Spring practice is just around the corner. Can't wait.

Enough stalling, time to get to your questions. As always, thanks for your participation.

 

BloomingtonRev wrote on February 20, 2018 at 9:02 am

Bob - the great swami of statistics and history - give us the best guess on this question.  In Illini football history they have 602 wins and 585 losses.  Other than 1-2 in 1890 they have been a program over .500 in the remaining 126 years.  In what year will this no longer be the case?  Pencils down - what do you have?

Bob Asmussen wrote on February 20, 2018 at 10:02 am
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BloomingtonRev,

Thanks for pointing that out. You obviously noticed the team went 6-0 the next year.

You know I am a glass half-full guy and tend to look for the bright side. I think the team will have a hard time winning more games than it loses this season, but I don't see another 2-10. More in the 5-7, 4-8 range. I expect the team will have a good chance to get back in the bowl business in 2019. so the leaking toward sub-.500 wll slow.If the team finishes under .500 the next three years, which I doubt, then there might be another coaching change. And that would lead to another slide. So, the earliest sub.-500 can happen in my opinion is 2021. Things can change in a hurry in football. If Lovie Smith gets it turned, then the winning will be more consistent.

Illini Football Fan wrote on February 20, 2018 at 10:02 am

Bob -

Kudos to a number of Illini football players and 'Tre Stallings who played important roles in surprising Colton Rahn with gifts at the Illini basketball game yesterday. Colton is a 9-year-old from Tuscola who has Cerebral Palsy and is to undergo eye surgery soon.

How did Lovie Smith end up with 'Tre Stallings in the position of Director of Player Personnel? I wonder how Stallings, James Kirkland (Director of Player Personnel), and Patrick Embleton (Director of Football Student-Athlete Development) collaborate together and what are their primary purpose in their respective jobs?

Thank you.

Bob Asmussen wrote on February 20, 2018 at 10:02 am
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Illini Football Fan,

 

That was a very cool thing the players did. Just another sign about something I realize every day, for the most part, the guys on the football team are really, really good people and are willing to help. I have been impressed with the players during my time covering the team.

Pat Embleton was a holdover from the Tim Beckman, Bill Cubit staffs. He has always done a good job and knows his stuff. Lovie Smith brought in Tre Stallings and James Kirkland. Their jobs, as I understand them, are as the groundwork guys in recruiting. They help identify players Illinois should consider and help make contact. They work very closely with the coaches. I know when they land a high-profile player it is a very big deal and they share the success equally.

Obviously, the recruiting staff will play a vital role in the future of Illinois football. I think they work extremely hard and are very good at their jobs.

 

 

Anonymous User wrote on February 20, 2018 at 10:02 am

Seems to me the key to improvement for 2019 comes down to just a couple of areas. 1)Improved line play on both sides of the ball. If the offensive line can establish a run game and control the clock that will kep the defensive line fresh. 2)The ability of the OC to call a good game control the clock and maximize the weapons he has. 3)Get consistent play out of the QB position. Be smart and play within yourself. Don't put your team in precarious positions.Play within yourself.  What do you think? 4-6 wins a possibility?

Bob Asmussen wrote on February 20, 2018 at 10:02 am
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Anon,

 

You are jumping the gun a bit. First, we've got the 2018 season. And I do think 4-6 wins are possible.

Great points by you on all counts. Line play, especially on offense, is critical. The young quarterback can't be running for his life on every play. There has to be a consistency in the offensive line play.

One thing I have noted from multiple talks with Rod Smith is that he favors an up-tempo offense. That can go along with holding the ball if you are making first downs, which has been a problem in recent years. Moving the sticks is key and I think it will be better with Rod Smith running the offense. He has an advantage in that the rest of the Big Ten doesn't really know what he will do. He wants to exploit that advantage.

I can't tell you right now who will be the quarterback. There is a chance more than one will play, although Rod Smith wants to go with one guy if possible.Ball security is going to be emphasied a lot. The team has a tiny margin for error and can't help the opponents with turnovers. I expect the number of false starts and holding calls to drop too.

 

 

Illini Football Fan wrote on February 20, 2018 at 10:02 am

Bob -

I am hearing that the Lovie is about to announce his CB (experienced) coach sometime this week. Could it be Charles 'Peanuts' Tillman? Or other possibilities?

Thanks!

Bob Asmussen wrote on February 20, 2018 at 10:02 am
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Illini Football Fan,

Charles Tillman makes a lot of sense if he wants to coach. I think he would be a dynamic recruiter and obviously knows the game well.

He visited practice, I think during Lovie Smith's first season. I believe they have remained close over the years. Tillman would give the Illini one of the all-time best secondary staffs in terms of their careers. Two accomplished players.

If not Tillman, I can't guess where Lovie Smith will go for the remaiing spot. He knows coaches at all levels and has shown a willinness to be unconventional.

 

Stay tuned.

Anonymous User wrote on February 20, 2018 at 10:02 am

I think it is very smart the way Lovie has loaded up on both sides of the line the last two classes. Big bodied O-lineman to establish the run game and control the clock. When he was Bears coach he use to say they get off the bus running, or to compare it to Big Ten FB just like Wisconsin. On the D-line he wants to have speed and pressure the offense. I think this is smart and hopefully he can pull this off. Wouldn't you think the class of 2019 has to successfully recruit some big time playermakers to climb the ladder? Wouldn't you think the commitment of some very good skill players is a must? On the offense some RB's, WR's, a Tight End or two, and a good QB prospect? On the defense LB's and DB's? I do like the foundation he is setting with the lines, but we really need to bring in some bigtime difference makers. Thanks for the chats!

Bob Asmussen wrote on February 20, 2018 at 10:02 am
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Anon2,

I totally agree. The base needed to be set with talent on both lines, but to win 8-10 games a season, there has to be high-end talent at receiver, running back and across the board on defense.

From what I understand, there is more talent in Illinois in the 2019 class and also in the areas Lovie Smith plans to emphasize in recruiting. That gives him a chance to get the kind of difference makers you are talking about. Usually, if you land one of those great players, it creates a wave of talent. The last time it worked that way here was during the Ron Zook era. He did a great job landing high-level skill guys. A Martez Wilson-trype annnouncement would do wonders for Lovie Smith's recruiting.

Bob Asmussen wrote on February 20, 2018 at 10:02 am
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I've got to get scooting to my interview, so I am going to cut off the chat for today. Thanks for all of your great questions.

I will be back to Monday next week. If you have any questions between now and then, feel free to email me at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

Have a great week everyone. Enjoy the Olympics and college basketball.