Sept. 3 Bob Asmussen chat

Sept. 3 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, September 3, 2018 - 10:00am

How did the Illini look against Kent State? Will AJ Bush Jr. be the starting quarterback against Western Illinois? Did Rod Smith's offense wow the fans?

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

Bob Asmussen wrote on September 03, 2018 at 10:09 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. Happy Labor Day! Hope you all had a great holiday weekend.

I will be here for about an hour or so, then I am going to zip over to Lovie Smith's weekly press conference.

Illinois played a poor first half against Kent State, but the bottom line was it managed to win the game. At the end of the season, when they count the wins toward bowl eligibility, margin of victory is not a factor.

The Illini looked far from ready for the postseason against the Golden Flashes. The offense really struggled until finding itself in the second half. I was impressed by the work done by Rod Smith.

The big story to me was the indefinite suspensions of five players, including three starters. No question it had an impact on the game and will going forward. If the guys are out for an extended time, it will cut into the team's chances of winning more games than it did in 2017.

Illinois should be encouraged by some of the results in the Big Ten. Penn State doesn't look as good as we thought. Though Maryland looks better than expected.

Illinois should have no trouble this week against Western Illinois, but then the schedule gets tougher.

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




Sangman69 wrote on September 03, 2018 at 10:09 am

Are the suspended players and the two players identified as academic redshirts (Verdis Brown and Larry Boyd) practicing with the team? How many freshmen played in the Kent State game?

Bob Asmussen wrote on September 03, 2018 at 10:09 am
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Great question. I will get a definitive answer at today's press conference. But both Larry Boyd and Verdis Brown participated during training camp. What I don't know is how long the coaches knew they wouldn't have them available this season. If they knew it before camp, my guess is they might not have practiced.

Illinois used 10 freshmen Saturday, including five starters. What we won't know for sure until later in the season is if any of those guys will still redshirt. They get up to four games before they have used up the year. A lot will depend on how they performed.

I thought the young defensive backs played well after getting rid of the first-game jitters. Quan Martin's interception was a huge play. All the defensive backs performed well during training camp, so I am not surprised they did so well.

But you have to remember the opponent Illinois faced was coming off a 2-10 season. Once in the Big Ten, the freshmen face greater challenges.

john in Tucson wrote on September 03, 2018 at 10:09 am

Bob -- I was at the game Saturday, and it seemed to me that with the exception of a few plays -- the interception in the end zone, most notably -- that after the first Kent State possession, the defensive line, which I thought would be a strength, was either out-handled or out-smarted repeatedly, especially be what seemed to be the old "trap" play but run by the quarterback. I must say the KS quarterback was outstanding, but I also thought Bush played very well. Your take on the D-line play?

Bob Asmussen wrote on September 03, 2018 at 10:09 am
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Great to hear from you. I agree that the line struggled at times. Part of it has to be the missing parts. But I also think Kent State's tempo wore out the Illini defense. It was a hot day and it seemed like the Illini were tired early.

Is it possible that NFL-trained Lovie Smith is still adjusting to more creative college offenses? I think that is part of it too.

The Kent State offense was a bad fit for the Illinois defense and it gave future opponents plenty to think about in terms of ways to attack Illinois.

You are right about Bush. He was very good once he got settled in. He will help the offense this season. He will be the subject of this week's Q&A. I am looking forward to it.



DDA in CA wrote on September 03, 2018 at 10:09 am

Do you think Lovie will try the California kid in at quarterback against Western Illinois?

Bob Asmussen wrote on September 03, 2018 at 10:09 am
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DDA in CA,

I would like to see Matt Robinson on the field and I hope that happens at some point this season. But I think the first quarterback off the bench will be Cam Thomas, followed by M.J. Rivers.

The first priority for Illinois is to secure the win. After that happens, then it is possible the backup quarterbacks will get on the field. And maybe that will include Robinson.

The quarterback competition will be very interesting next season.

Panera Guy wrote on September 03, 2018 at 10:09 am


Thanks for taking our questions today, several for you.

Any major injuries to report from the game? Dudek didn't play much in the 2nd half and considering the score, I'm assuming it had to be fairly serious to keep him out.

280 yards rushing as a team was fantastic, Bush really seemed to take all responsibility on his shoulders towards the end. Do you expect to continue to see all 3 running backs share duty or did Corbin separate himself?

Lastly, please tell me the special teams coach is going to go over the process on fielding kick offs before next week. We had two major screwups that put is in bad field position.

Thanks again!

Bob Asmussen wrote on September 03, 2018 at 10:09 am
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Panera Guy,


No major injuries that I amn aware of. We will have an update after today's press conference. Mikey Dudek took a hard hit, but knowing him, he wil be back and ready to roll.

I agree ahout Bush. He played really well and his leadership skills are obvious. Remember, he has been waiting a long time for this.

On the running backs, Rod Smith likes to keep guys fresh. All three will play a lot. I think the decision how much guys play will be situational. Reggie Corbin works better against certain types of defenses. Same for Mike Epstein and Ra'Von Bonner.

Yes, Bob Ligashesky will be spending a lot of time with the returners. That wasa  case of a guy being excited to make a play and temporarily forgetting where he was at. Dominic Stampley will make big plays for Illinois this season.

I watch a lot of special teams in practice and Illinois works on it a lot. But these are young guys, not pros.


Bob Asmussen wrote on September 03, 2018 at 10:09 am
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I am going to cut the chat off for today and head over to the press conference. 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

Have a great week.