Aug. 27 Bob Asmussen chat

Aug. 27 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, August 27, 2018 - 10:00am

How will A.J. Bush perform in his first game at Illinois? What positions are up for grabs? How good is Kent State?

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 August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. I'm going to be here for about an hour or so, then have to zip over to Lovie Smith's weekly press conference.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I went to many of my daughter's events and watched a lot of sports on the final free weekend until Thanksgiving. I also went to see "Crazy Rich Asians," which was really good.

Hard to believe the Illinois opener is a few days away. The team ended camp last week with an extended walkthrough on Saturday.

No official word on the starting quarterback, but it is going to be A.J. Bush. In my opinion, it is more a case of Bush winning the job as opposed to others losing it. My guess is Cam Thomas is the first one off the bench.

It's going to be interesting to see Rod Smith's offense for the first time. Everyone who I have asked about Smith has been positive about his ability to point Illinois in the first direction. The last two years were not good. I expect the numbers to improve, maybe in a big way.

Illinois is thin in spots. So one key to a successful season is staying healthy. Training camp, with an exception of two, went well injury-wise for the Illini.

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


Sangman69 wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am

Why in the world would Jeff George, Jr. transfer to Michigan?


How close are the Illini to picking up other commitments from other Trinity HS players?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am
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Before the NCAA cleared Shea Patterson to play this season, the idea made some sense. The situation looked open, which is what George Jr. wanted. The addition of Patterson obviously changed that.

George isn't staying at Michigan. He has transferred to Pittt, where I believe he will be immediately eligible. I have reached out to the Georges and am hoping to talk to Jeff and/or his dad. I will keep you posted.

The Trinity roster is loaded with talent and having the former head coach on the staff, Cory Patterson, figures to help Illinois' cause. But as others have pointed out to me, it doesn't guarantee any more commitments. The team can help by winning more games.


Mr. Illini wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am


Do you think there will be some sort of anouncement giving information about the length of the anticpated player suspensions or will we find out on a game by game basis what's going on?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am
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Mr. Illini,

The school has said nothing about possible suspensions for the opener and beyond. Based on how Lovie Smith has dealt with this kind of stuff in the past, there will be little information released before the game. He doesn't want to give the opponent the advantage of knowing who it doesn't have to prepare for.

Barring a change in the way Lovie Smith does things, we will all find out at the same time.

Illinois should be able to beat Kent State even if it is short-handed. If there are extended suspensions that stretch into the third and fourth games, then it will become an issue for Illinois.

Stay tuned.

Red Grange wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am

Has the football team been activiely searching for a new assistant coach to replace Donnie Abraham? Will there be new systems in place for hiring coaches after seeing how poorly Ohio State's situation went?

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am
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Red Grange,

I don't believe that will happen until after the season. Lovie Smith is working with the cornerbacks during practice. The number of assistant coaches is the same as last season, so I don't think he feels there is a need to rush to hire a coach. My guess is it will happen after the early signing period and before the February signing period.

I think all schools, including Illinois, need to look at the way they do things. On a broad scale. To me, the best way to deal with athletic-related controversy is to bring in someone from the outside to investigate. But you have to be willing to listen to the findings. It is not clear to me that happened at Ohio State.

Anonymous User wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am

Seems like every other story on predictions for Big Ten FB have Lovie as being the coach on the hot seat. My questions to you are with your knowledge of how Josh Whitman works are there any legs to these stories? They seem like they are making their judgements subjectively rather than objectively doesn't it? Seems like he hired Lovie to bring credibility to the program. He also knew the dire straits the program was in regarding the talent level of the roster. He also realized the damage done by the previous coaches, not Cubit but the few years of Beckman in paricular. Therefore the reason for the six year contract. Seems like Josh knew the consant coaching changeover served no purpose and instead stability was needed even if the progress was slow. Iowa with Kirk Ferentz seems like a good example and Barry Alvarez's steadying administrative tenure are perfect examples to me. I think the Illini will show progress this year and if they can get recruits as a result of it the future will get better. Am I making any sense or just overdosing on the koolaid? Thanks!

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am
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You are right. The reason Josh Whitman gave Lovie Smith six years was because he knew it was going to take time. That tells the rest of the world that Lovie Smith is safe. If they listen. Outsiders look at the record and make incorrect assumptions.

I said last week that even if tbe Illini go 0-12, which they won't, Lovie Smith will be back in 2019. More likely, four-plus wins, which will help with recruiting.

Over the years, it has been obvious to me that the constant turnover at the top served no purpose and only set the program back Josh Whitman realizes that and will give his guy every chance to succeed. I think it is the right move.

Anonymous User wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am

The Illini have 10 commitments as of now. What do you think there strategy will be the rest of the way for the remaining spots? What do you think will be their final number of commitments? What positions will they concentrate on? Will they wait and work more highly regarded recruits or take them as they come? I would think if they have more wins and are competitve in the losses that would bode well in the eyes of recruits right?  Lastly did Keivan Myers the Texas linmen from 2018 ever make it to school? Thanks for the chats!

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am
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With the lower number of seniors on the current team, the 2019 class will be limited. Maybe in the 18 range. The bulk of the team is younger, so a smaller class won't hurt in the long run.

The current class is short on defense and linemen, so those will be the priorities. I think the team is aiming higher with this class. The coaches will have more time to focus on the handful of key recruits.

Like with all schools, Illinois has a list for each position. It starts at the top and keeps asking until the players say yes or no. If the team plays better this season, it will have a positive impact on recruiting.

Also, realize that Lovie Smith doesn't worry much about the recruiting rankings. He's got his own criteria. So a guy that is a 2-star player to the scouting services might be a 4-star to Illinois. Smith knows what he wants in a player.

The last time Lovie Smith was asked about Kievan, the coach said he was hopeful to get him on the team. I will ask again today.


Illini Football Fan wrote on August 27, 2018 at 10:08 am

Bob -

What do you see in your crystal ball for this Saturday's game vs Kent State? Prediction of final score? Who be the MVP? Surprise stars? Number of fans in attendance? Who scores the first touchdown (Illini)? Who snares first interception or/and fumble (Illini)? Any defensive touchdowns (Illini)? Will Lovie keep his beard for this game? Will fans feel more or less excited about the team after the game?

Look forward to the game and season with some patience of growing pains and clearer skies ahead.

Thanks for all you do and appreciate the recent articles highlighting the academic pursuits of some of the football players.


Bob Asmussen wrote on August 27, 2018 at 11:08 am
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Illini Football Fan,


I am going with Illinois 34, Kent State 14. MVP will be A.J. Bush. Mikey Dudek will score the first touchdown. How about Sam Mays as a surprise star because the defense will be worried about Ricky Smalling and Dudek. First interception goes to Jake Hansen, who brings it back for a score. I will guess Lovie Smith keeps the beard and won't shave as long as the team keeps winning.

Fans will be excited to see Rod Smith's offense. The announced crowd will be in the 40,000s. Actual crowd will depend on the weather. Rain keeps people away. I promise to be there rain or shine.


Daytripper wrote on August 27, 2018 at 11:08 am


With the new OC, will the offensive line continue to "flip-flop", like they have the last two years?  Is that a Luke Butkus thing, or was it a product of our previous OC?  It seems a bit strange.

Any news on potential football commits?  Can we assume it will be relatively quiet now that most schools have started their seasons?  

Thanks again for the chats.

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 27, 2018 at 11:08 am
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The flip flop on the offensive line is done. That was a Garrick McGee thing. Obviously, it did not work for the 2017 offense. Why would you want to take a guy out of his comfort zone? You wouldn't.

I think the Illinois offensive line will be better this season and has a chance to be much better in 2019.

You are right, recruiting will slow during the season. This staff worries first about the matter at hand. Of course, if a great player wants to visit, they will happily welcome him.

Because there are so few spots left to fill, recruiting isn't imperative right now. But the coaches can always work ahead on future classes.

Bob Asmussen wrote on August 27, 2018 at 11:08 am
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I am going to close the chat for today. Thanks for all of your great questions.

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

If you are in Champaign tonight, I hope you can join us for our weekly show. We will be at Scotty's Brewhouse on Neil Street.

Have a great week everyone.