March 5 Bob Asmussen chat

March 5 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, March 5, 2018 - 10:00am

What is first on the Illinois to-do list for the spring? Will the team suffer because it isn't having a final scrimmage? Which players will move into important roles for 2018?

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 March 05, 2018 at 10:03 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. Hope everyone had a great weekend. I watched a lot of basketball and finally got around to seeing "Get Out." Wow.

Illinois spring football practice opens Tuesday morning. I am looking forward to my first look at Rod Smith's offense. He will get a lot of quality time with quarterback Cam Thomas. 

There are plenty of questions for the Illini to answer in March and April. They should have a starting lineup decided going into the summer. Usually in the spring, you see a handful of players make big leaps from their earlier work. I will let you know during the session who those players are.

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

Daytripper wrote on March 05, 2018 at 10:03 am


Now that we are in a quieter period as to revenue sports, I'm curious what you've heard about the NHL funded feasibility study for establishing hockey as a varsity sport.  Is there any timeline for an announcement one way or another?  

Bob Asmussen wrote on March 05, 2018 at 10:03 am
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What I expect to happen is an announcement of an upcoming press conference, with no subject matter given. At the press conference, Illinois will let us know if it is moving forward with the look into hockey.

The timing is an unknown right now. My guess is it will be later in the summer or early in the fall. You are more likely to hear an announcement if the idea is given a thumb's up.

My opinion of hockey at Illinois has evolved. Certainly, there are higher priorities for the Illinois athletic department. There are facility upgrades needed for some of the sports. Football is getting a new building, but at some point Ubben will need to be enhanced. And baseball is desperate for renovations.

What will change the hockey conversation is if a major donor or donors come up with a big wad of cash. That's what happened at Penn State and it could easily happen at Illinois.

I agree with others that hockey could be a hit at Illinois, if done right. In hindsight, it's too bad a rink wasn't part of the State Farm Center renovation. That would make hockey much easier to add.

We promise to keep you posted.

Anonymous Jim wrote on March 05, 2018 at 10:03 am

Good morning Bob, who will be the starting QB against Kent St. on September 1st?

Bob Asmussen wrote on March 05, 2018 at 10:03 am
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Anonymous Jim,


Good morning to you, too.

I am going with the obvious choice: Cam Thomas, He has already played in the Big Ten, has the skillset Rod Smith is looking for and has the spring to learn the new system. He will have a big edge on the three freshmen coming in.

Of course, there is still a chance Illinois adds a graduate transfer during the summer. If that happens, the transfer will have the best chance to challenge Thomas for the starting position.

The quarterback position in Rod Smith's offense isn't just about throwing and running. It is about leading and winning. If Cam Thomas shows the ability to run the team, both on and off the field, he will be the guy going into training camp.

Rod Smith would like to pick one starter and stick with him. So I don't expect the many changes that happened in 2017.

Illini Football Fan wrote on March 05, 2018 at 10:03 am

Bob -

Who will be the 'surprise' stars of Spring football sessions? Who will serve as backup in case Can gets hurt? How soon can we find out about Dawson possibly transferring to Illini?


Thank you

Bob Asmussen wrote on March 05, 2018 at 10:03 am
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Illini Football Fan,

I look at spots where there is an obvious need for immediate help. With Mikey Dudek wisely being limited in spring ball because of his past knee troubles, it will give  a guy like Shaedon Meadors a great chance to shine. He is the Appalachian State trasnfer who sat out last season beecause of injury.

I'm also thinking defensive linemen Verdis Brown and Kendrick Green will get a lot of reps in the spring. New coach Austin Clark will want to find out who he can count on for his rotation this season..

The backup quarterbacks in the spring will be walk-ons Cam Miller and Charlie Reinkemeyer. It is unfortunate that one of the freshman quarterbacks couldn't start a semester early. They would have had invaluable practice time.

No word yet on any transfers. I will keep you posted.


Zekiah Swamp wrote on March 05, 2018 at 10:03 am

What, if any, work-outs are permitted for early-exit teams during the post-season (to end of NCAA tournament)?  Strength & conditioning only?  Are the coaches permitted to have live team viewing sessions of Big Ten/NCAA/NIT tournament games with the coaches present?

Bob Asmussen wrote on March 05, 2018 at 10:03 am
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Zekiah Swamp,


As I understard it (and I need to double-check), Illinois could technically work out now until it finds out that it won't be in the postseason. Just like college football teams are allowed to practice until all the bowl slots are filled. The reality is that a coach is unlikely to use the time. More likely, the Illini will work out during the off-season time that is allowed for all schools.

That is a great question about whether or not the coaches can watch the NIT/NCAA games with the team. They are all basketball fans, so it is natural they would want to watch the games. If there is a rule that doesn't allow that it is a ridiculous rule and needs to be changed. The NCAA shouldn't be dictating the viewing habits of its athletes.

I think it will be very helpful for the Illinois players and coaches  to watch the tournament together. It would be motivational and also provide insight into how the best teams do their work. I will find out if it is allowed and get back to you in next week's chat.

Bob Asmussen wrote on March 05, 2018 at 11:03 am
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I am going to end the chat for today. Thanks as always 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

If you are in downtown Champaign tonight, stop by The Esquire for "The News-Gazette Sports Page." Illinois men's tennis coach Brad Dancer and star player Aleks Vukic will be our quests.

Have a great week and enjoy the conference basketball tournaments.