Aug, 21 Bob Asmussen chat

Aug, 21 Bob Asmussen chat

Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - 2:00pm

Is A.J. Bush locked in as the starting quarterback? Who will be his backup? What other positions at Illinois are up for grabs?

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 August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. Hope everyone is having a good week. I spent the last several days finishing up my part of our special preview section, which will be in Sunday's paper. We have cool stories about what some of the Illinois players want to do after football. If you have a chance, please take a look.

Illinois football is moving toward the opener on Sept, 1. The mood at Memorial Stadium is improved this year. I think the players feel good about the work they have put in.

I think Illinois will play better. But will that mean a lot more wins? It will be fun to see it play out.

The BTN crew was here today. Always nice to see Howard Griffith, J Leman, Gerry DiNardo, Dave Revsine and friends.

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


Anonymous User wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Bob-  Two questions:


* If I was Lovie, my first call to replace the cornerbacks coach would be to Terry Hawthorne.  Terry is a great ambassador of the university and could also significantly help with recruiting.

* To date, have any of Josh Whitman's hires been successful?  Seems like football, M/W bball have a combined record of 20/110.  I think Josh needs to shore-up the big money-making sports instead of continuing to drain taxpayer money by adding hockey.


Bob Asmussen wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm
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I think you have come up with a great idea for the cornerbacks coach. I don't think the job will be filled until after the season. At that point, Terry Hawthorne will be done with his work at East St. Louis and available. He wants to coach in college and coming back to Illinois would be the perfect spot for him. He has always been a quiet guy, but when you see him around the players, he really opens up. I think he has a chance to be a solid recruiter and I think he will be a very good coach. Wonder if anyone has mentioned your idea to Lovie Smith.

On Josh Whitman, I think you have to give it time to see what happens. Brad Underwood has been here just a year. He has proven his ability to coach. Football is more difficult to turn around. I think Lovie Smith made very good changes to his staff. He should be given time to see how it works.

At first, the idea of hockey made no sense to me. But I have changed my mind. It would be a good thing for the school and the community,

Panera Guy wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm


Thanks, as always, for taking our questions today, I have several around the new "redshirt" rules.

With the youth movement last year, only 3 guys redshirted, and the new rules this year, how many freshmen and who, if you know, do you think will redshirt this year? Don't you anticipate some coaches really taking advantage of that rule? Do you think players will be more agreeable to doing it if they still get to play 4 games? 

Lastly and maybe most important, do you think Mikey Dudek would consider applying for another year from a medical redhsirt or is there a time limit to apply that he has missed? Sure would love to see him in the orange and blue another year.

Sorry so many questions in one paragraph, thanks again.

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm
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Panera Guy,


For as long as I have covered football, freshmen have always wanted to play. What the new rule does is allow coaches the flexibility to basically give the guys a tryout. So, you use a freshman receiver early and see if he can make a difference. If it doesn't work out, you sit him the final eight games and have him back for four more years. A great thing for both the teams and the players.

The other benefit is if there is a late season injury on say the offensive line. If you have a player you weren't sure about redshirting, you can get him on the field to help and also gain experience.

I think the rule really helps a team like Illinois where depth is a concern. This is an easy way to build it without harming the future.

I have asked Mikey about a sixth year a lot. To me, the only way he comes back is if he gets hurt this season and misses extensive time. I want to see the guy have a healthy final season and move on to the NFL. He has done more than his share at Illinois.

Anonymous User wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm

How is the new FB facility coming along? From what you have seen of the plans, will this have all the bells and whisltes, or are we going to have to add on or building something else to complement it in the future? Where will this rank us in the Big Ten for FB facilities? I saw Northwestern spend $270 million on there facility which seems sinful. What is ours going to cost? Also what unit seems to be more improved over last year the defense or the offense? Lovie with the Bears had great defense and ran the ball with great success. Is he adopting that plan here or is he going to leave the offense  totally up to Rod Smith?  Thanks for the chats!!!

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm
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I took a look the other day and it is coming along. It will be a huge improvement to the facilities, which put Illinois at a disadantage in the Big Ten. It has everything the players need and I don't think an addition will be needed for at least a decade. There is a bowling alley and a barbershop. The players will never want to leave, which I assume is one of the goals.

The Illinois facility is much less expensive than what Northwestern is building. Of course, Illinois doesn't have the awesome setting like Northwestern has next to Lake Michigan.

It's great if the buildings look nice. But the key is to make them functional. That will be the case at Illinois.

When the new building is done, Illinois will be in the upper middle, just because it is newer.

The offense will be more improved this season. It has a longer climb than the defense.

This is Rod Smith's offense. I'm sure Lovie Smith has suggestions, but he will allow the offensive staff to do what it thinks is right. That's a good thing. Lovie Smith's expertise is in defense.

Anonymous Jim wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Hello Bob, if Cam Thomas were to change positions which one suits him best?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm
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Anoymous Jim,

I don't think that will happen, but I would say running back or receiver. If he doesn't play this season, he knows that A.J. Bush won't be back, so he will have a chance to again compete for the job.

Major Tom wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Yo' Bob:  Ahh-gust, three weeks into training camp and the Illini are still undefeated and tied for first place in the B1G.  I'm loving it for the moment, as I usually get frustrated by the fifth or sixth game of the season and look for other things to do...maybe this season will be different.  I look into my crystal ball and see no more than four wins for the Illini this season.  Hope I am wrong.  The Illini running game looks to be solid and very deep with QB being the key to success, the QB position is always the straw that stirs the drink and consistency there is key!  I do not care who starts just so they don't make key mistakes at key times of the game.   I feel Lovie and his staff have done a nice job recruiting the last two years and things are on an upswing.


As to Ohio State, whom "I" consider to be the most corrupt athletic program in he Big Ten if not in NCAA college sports.  "I" believe that the death penalty in to be considered for their football program.  Meye's lied to the media, to the University and the fans...sort of smacks of Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno...whom all lied or looked the other way!  Ohio State always fields the Best Team Money Can Buy!  Harsh words I know but as you can see "I" am no fan of the buckeyes!


As to the U. of Mayland and the tragic death of a young man in their care...Who is to blame?  The strength coach certainly, who will be lucky if he can avoid jail time, but Isn't the Head Fotball Coach ultimately responsible for all that happens under is watchful eye?  Granted he cannot be or see everything that goes on everyday 24-7, but the buck stops with him, especially if a player pays the ultimate price!  The University needs to take  a hardlok at the culture in the athletic the U. of Maryland, someone has dropped the ball!!!  If Tim Beckman was held responsible at the U. of I in 2014 fo the culture surrounding his football program then it seems to me tha Durkin, at Maryland, should be held to those same standards.  But that is "Just" my personal opinion.


Hope you "have a GREAT week.  Even with people like me out there!  You do a GREAT JOB!



Major Tom


Bob Asmussen wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm
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Major Tom,


Lots of great stuff from you and also thanks for the kind words.

On the coaching situation, the head coaches I have worked with knew almost everything going on with their programs. So I have a hard time believing that at Ohio State and Maryland the coaches weren't aware. Hopefully, the folks in charge will get to the bottom of it and come up with real solutions.

We will see.

Anonymous User wrote on August 21, 2018 at 2:08 pm

From what we read and hear the vibes coming from FB training camp seem pretty positive. Freshman are now bigger and better sophmores, seems like maybe we have a QB that has jumped to the front of the pack in AJ Bush to be a leader, so far knock on wood good health. From what you see is there reasons  for optimism this year to have more wins and be much improved in the losses. From what Lovie started with I would settle for 4-5 wins and to be much more competitive in the losses. Six wins and a bowl game would be a major step forward. Wouldn't it? If you look at Lovie's history as a head coach, his teams were much better and produced more wins in his second year, both with the Bears and with Tampa Bay.I am looking at this as his second year because of when he was hired. Am I wrong to look at it this way? Is all this positive stuff real or is it just to good to be true?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 21, 2018 at 3:08 pm
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I would highly recommend optimism. It is a much better way to go through life for a sports fan.

To me, Lovie Smith was hired at a very good time of the year and a rare time for a head coach. Normally, coaches are hired right after the season and have to scramble to put together a staff and recruits. In Lovie Smith's case, he came in March and had all the time he wanted to hire a staff.

The 2016 recruiting class put together by Bill Cubit had some misses. Like all classes. But there were also a lot of players who have key roles with the team now. If those players had  been taken away, then I would buy the Year 2 theory. But they are part of the team.

To me, the only way a team makes a giant step is if the players buy in totally. That seems to be the case now, which explains the positive talk from the players. It is real and I saw it when the teams turned under Ron Turner and Ron Zook. How many wins? That's an open question. I think four to six is reasonable, but not guaranteed. The Big Ten West is getting better too.

Daytripper wrote on August 21, 2018 at 3:08 pm


A couple of things here.  First, Northwestern's new facility includes an indoor practice facility.  Northwestern didn't have such a facility, but Illinois has had their's for quite a while now.  The Northwestern facility also supports a number of their sports teams.

Second, I see that Teddy Greenstein ranked the Illini last in the Tribune's initial power rankings, even behind Maryland which is a program in turmoil right now.  That seems to be a trend.  Do you feel these rankings are based, in large part, past performance?  Or do they take into account new personnel?  If the Illini perform as some of these prognosticators expect, when does there become pressure on both Lovie Smith and Josh Whitman?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 21, 2018 at 3:08 pm
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Great points about the Northwestern facility. Thanks for that.

I think the rankings are a combination of past performance and returning players. I haven't done my power poll yet, but I think I will have Illinois no worse than 12th. I think I have a better understanding of the team's strengths and weaknesses than somebody who doesn't live here.

If Illinois wins two or fewer games, it will be bad for Lovie Smith's program. But it won't mean the end. Barring a scandal, I am sure the staff returns in 2019. Three years is not enough time to judge correctly.

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 21, 2018 at 3:08 pm
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I am going to cut the chat off for today. Thanks for all of your great questions.

I will be back next week at a date and time to be determined. Either Monday or Tuesday at either 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. I will let you know soon. If you have any questions between now and then, feel free to email me at

Have a great week everybody.