May 14 Bob Asmussen chat

May 14 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, May 14, 2018 - 10:00am

What is the top recruiting priority for Illinois football? Which Big Ten school made the most improvement during the spring? Who is the biggest challenger to Cam Thomas at quarterback?

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

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2018 at 10:05 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. Hope everyone had a great weekend.

I spent most of my work time covering the Illinois men's tennis team, which advanced in the NCAA tournament. Brad Dancer's team played very well and has a good chance to keep winning in North Carolina.

Illinois baseball played well at Michigan, winning 2 of 3. The team continues to push for a bid to the NCAA tournament. If it plays well to close the season, it should get an invite.

Other than baseball, we are going into a slow time on the sports calendar. But football will be back before you know it. I can't wait.

Thanks as always for your participation in the chats. Time to get to your questions.

Illini Football Fan wrote on May 14, 2018 at 10:05 am

Bob -

Do you think Lovie's recruiting approach/strategy may cost him some recruits, even a few possible decommits at some point? Are some coaches, like PJ Fleck, take advantage of Lovie's motto 'I want you here on campus only if your heart is set to be an Illini.' (something to that effect) ?? I understand that some Illini assistants may be more aggressive and should Lovie be more aggressive to close the recruitment process? What if Alabama or Clemson  pops up this summer and try to snare I. Williams and Beason away? (especially if they may see that their desired teammates choose to go elsewhere)? Will all this possibly crash on Lovie at the end? 

Admittedly, this is the half-glass full versus half-empty glass full thing.  I know all it takes are wins to make recruiting so much easier.

Thanks -


Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2018 at 10:05 am
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Illini Football Fan,

My theory on recruiting philosophy is pretty basic: be yourself. Actually, be the best version of yourself.

Lovie Smith has built a reputation as a straight-forward guy. And his former players give him positive reviews. That's why you see some of his former players on his staff and why he has maintained close ties with some of the best in the game.

To me, it is a huge advantage for Illinois if a player with the credentials of Brian Urlacher is in Lovie Smith's corner.

The Illinois assistant coaches follow what the head coach wants. I don't think there is any freelancing going on. It is a definitely a united front in the football office.

A big reason Isaiah Williams picked Illinois is because the school promised him a chance to play quarterback. I know for sure that Alabama wanted him for other positions and not quarterback. So, I don't see him jumping to the Crimson Tide or anywhere else.

What will help Illinois most in recruiting is progress on the field. It doesn't need to jump from two to eight wins. It just needs to play better than it did in 2017. The players have been told the program is moving in the right direction. On-field proof of that claim is important.

My guess is that Illinois will win more games this season and have more close losses. The team is about a year behin the usual model: lose big, lose close, win close.

illini1133 wrote on May 14, 2018 at 10:05 am

Hi Bob,

  With Joe Burrow transferring from Ohio State we see that players want to play and will even leave the winningest programs.  Did Illinois ever recruit him?  Is there a chance they are recruiting him now?  He would fill a need as a grad transfer Quarterback to add experience, maybe not game but at least with locker room and maturity.  Is Illinois done with the 2018 class or is there a chance a transfer could be added with spring practices wrapped up and players now knowing their roles for next year better?



Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2018 at 10:05 am
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Illinois did recruit Joe Burrow, who was a standout in Athens, Ohio. His dad Jimmy is a longtime assistant to Frank Solich at Ohio University. Former Illinois assistant Alex Golesh was the coach who recruited Burrow. Illinois had interest but did not make an offer.

It sounds like he has all sorts of options, including nearby Cincinnati and LSU. I'm sure the Illinois staff would consider adding him if he showed interest. His experience will be helpful to any program. I'm sure he wants to play right away and is unlikely to enter a situation where he doesn't think he will get strong consideration.

Illinois has a lot of quarterbacks on the roster for 2018, though very little experience. I think Cam Thomas has a big lead going into training camp.

Lovie Smith will definitely consider adding transfers in the summer if one or two show interest. There are a couple need positions where a transfer or two makes sense. I will keep you posted.


John in Tucson wrote on May 14, 2018 at 10:05 am

Bob -- given the two hour time difference, I usually cannot log in "live" to you chat, but today . . . two related questions: 1) When will the two freshman QB's arrive on campus, and 2) What if any are the limits on how much the coaches can work with them and possibly a receiver or two"




Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2018 at 11:05 am
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Great to hear from you. Glad you are able to join us.

The new quarterbacks are scheduled to arrive in mid June. I will get the exact date and report back to you.

The rules were changed a few years ago to allow more off-season time for the players and the coaches. But as I understand it, that time does not extend into the summer. Players can certainly talk to the coaches, but their workouts are on their own. I know that the training staff is allowed to be involved, which makes a ton of sense. You want the players to have proper care if they twist an ankle or have trouble with the heat.

The quarterbacks usually run the off-season workouts. I will have a story in a few weeks about Cam Thomas and what he will do this summer.

Right now, the players are away from the team for about a month. That's a good thing. I strongly believe the players need a break

Anonymous User wrote on May 14, 2018 at 11:05 am

When is the new FB building due for completion and do you think it will have an effect for recruiting on the class of  2019? Also do you think the Illini can be more successful in recruiting nearby areas such as Indianna and Kentucky which seems to producing better FB players or places like Ohio which we seem to have neglected lately? Also after the new FB facility is built what would be the next area of improvement in physical improvements to help FB? Lastly any word on the possibility of a building for Hockey?

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2018 at 11:05 am
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The Illinois Football Performance Center is scheduled to be done before the start of the 2019 season. Last time I was there during spring football, you could see that progress was being made daily. I will try to go over there this week to see how it looks and report back to you in next week's chat. I live less than a mile from Memorial Staidum and could walk to games if I wasn't in such a hurry afterward. (OK, my laziness might play a part too).

I think the building is already having an impact in recruiting. I promise that every player who comes on campus is shown the space and the pictures that give them an idea of how it will look. The bowling alley and barbershop are unique.

I know the coaches are trying to make a push into nearby recruiting areas. The key to that for the coaches is patience and perseverance. You might not get a guy the first time, but it can pay off in the future. For Illinois to have long-term success in football, the coaches need to outwork and outthink the other schools.

Next up for football has to be improvement to the east and south sides of Memorial Stadium. While that doesn't impact players on the surface, part of those rebuilds could be areas that help the student-athletes. Maybe a new training table or enhanced study facilities. There is a lot of room for a lot of stuff.

No update on hockey. The more I think about it, the more I like the  downtown idea. It would be a great thing for businesses and would further connect the campus and the city.



Daytripper wrote on May 14, 2018 at 11:05 am

A few questions for you Bob.  How does Wisconsin get into the NCAA Softball tourney ahead of Illinois, who had a better record in non-conference and league play?  Also, now that the feasibilty report has been completed and was positive, is Whitman starting to raise money for a hockey program?  If so, I assume it is in the quiet phase of fundraising.  Finally, I saw this morning where Tennessee had the top grosing athletic department in the SEC at $111M.  I know that OSU, Michigan and Penn State are the highest revenue departments in the Big 10.  How much does Illinois take in and where does it rank?

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2018 at 11:05 am
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In softball, I think it came down to strength of schedule. Wisconsin had an edge there. I think the Illini knew going into the Big Ten tournament that they needed to win at least two games to have a chance to get selected. A tough loss in the second round cost them a bid.

I don't think we will hear about hockey again, at least not officially, until fund-raising progress has been made. And I don't see that happening in the next few weeks. Maybe later in the summer or early in the fall.

I believe hockey will be a huge hit at Illinois if it happens. But I also think it can't be done without a huge financial commitment from someone outside the school. If a rich donor wants to come up with the cash, the sport will happen. But it will take time.

I don't think Illinois will add hockey unless it can be done without hindering the other sports.

I have to check on the revenue produced at Illinois and will report back next week. I believe Illinois is in the middle of the Big Ten in terms of gross revenue. I don't want to give you incorrect numbers.



Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2018 at 11:05 am
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I am going to close out the chat today. Thanks as always for your great questions.

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

Have a great week everyone.