Oct. 8 Bob Asmussen chat

Oct. 8 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, October 8, 2018 - 10:30am

How did the Illini perform at Rutgers? How important is the next game against Purdue? What position group needs the most attention in recruiting?

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 October 08, 2018 at 10:10 am
Profile Picture

Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. I will be here for about an hour.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I watched a lot of football and baseball. And my son came home from college for the weekend so I got to see him. That was a treat.

Illinois picked up a big win against Rutgers. That sets up the team to reach the six-win mark and the bowl bid that goes with it. I haven't done this for a number of years, but I will soon start to explore some of the possibilities.

If Illinois can beat Purdue, I believe it will get to six wins. Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern are beatable. So, if Illinois knocks off the Boilermakers, it needs to just split those four games.

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

Anonymous User wrote on October 08, 2018 at 10:10 am

 Bob-  Two points:

*  I'm anticipating all of the future Illini opponents including Purdue this Saturday are going to load-up the            box with a eight-man front and make AJ beat them with his arm.  


*  Regarding concussions- I do not understand 'why' they don't put some type of synthetic rubber or cushion on the outside of the helmet to reduce the severity of impact.

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 08, 2018 at 10:10 am
Profile Picture



Very perceptive on both counts.

Anybody who watches Illinois will realize that the passing part of Bush's game is a work in progress. He just hasn't played that much. And unfortunately, he is missing some key receivers. Notably Mikey Dudek.

His running ability helps open it up for his teammates, but the offense becomes truly dangerous when the opponents respect his ability to pass.

On the concussion idea, I remember Mark Kelso wearing some version of what you mentioned. There has to be way though helmet technology to reduce the impact. I have to think it is being worked on.


Bwp5p wrote on October 08, 2018 at 10:10 am

Hi Bob

I noticed Bennet Williams and Lou Dorsey both were injured during the Penn State game. I didn't see either of them play at Rutgers. Any word on their injuries?



Bob Asmussen wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am
Profile Picture



As you know, Lovie Smith doesn't like to share injury information. Bennett Williams didn't make the trip and I believe has a head injury. Hopefully, we will get an update today.

Lou Dorsey was on the trip, but did not play. The coaches aren't happy with his performance in practice. Hard to believe how far his stock has dropped.

He was expected to be a big part of the offense, but it hasn't happened. That doesn't mean it is a permanent condition.


Major Tom wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am

Howdy Bob:  The win against Rutgers was nice, Purdue would be better, beating Rutgers was somehow sort of like beating Western Illinois or a MAC Team though.  Now we need to beat "someone"!  I remain skeptical for the time being.  I still will also stick with four wins for the Illini in 2018 until number five comes along.  I suppose that I have to be convinced, how about you?  One thing I do like about this team is the way the offense is being coached, finally some imagination.  I know it is still a work in progress but things do look better now than in years.  I see potential like the offenses under Mike White and John Makovick (sp?)!  When the Illini were a dangerous unit for any opponent defense.  I saw Reggie Corbin play on television in his senior year and knew he would be good if given the opportunity and what is not to like about Mike Epstein?  Anyway, here's hoping!  Later...Major Tom

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am
Profile Picture

Major Tom,


I don't blame you for reserving your final endorsement. If the team beats Purdue, it will be a step closer to the six it needs for a bowl bid. That would be a major jump from last year's two-win season and would likely bring Lovie Smith an contract extension.

If I am Illinois, I am making plans to convince Rod Smith to stick around. He is happy with his contract, the most money he has ever made. But a bump might keep him from jumping to a head coaching offer that will someday come.

Arizona Bob wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am

Given the impressive success of new OC Rod Smith, expecially considering how QB play has improved with players who arrived in August, isn't it perhaps time to upgrade the defensive staff with proven coaches with extensive COLLEGE coaching experience.  given the poor performance so far this seaason in stopping the run, penalties, poor tackling and block release technique, pass rush, poor postioning and poor angles taken? It seems like Coach Byrd's secondary work has been the best considering the tough suspensions and injuries he's dealt with with those impressive Interception counts.

The loss of Coach Abraham so late in the season and replacement with Lovie's son certainly doesn't build confidence in getting the best staff available, either. 

Given Coach Nickerson's light college coaching and recruiting experience and college success, and based upon Lovie's uncommonly unsuccessful late game schemes for "prevent" defenses that often seem to result in opponent scores, do you believe hiring new staff, perhaps recently fired Oklahoma  DC Mike Stoops, might be a staff upgrade to get the defensive problems fixed, letting Coach Nickerson concentrate on recruiting and developing LBs?

I know Stoops has had issues, but few question his experience and FB intellect.

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am
Profile Picture

Arizona Bob,


If your concern is the defense, then the head coach will have to be replaced. It is his defense. Hardy Nickerson is simply the guy carrying it out. Those two work closely together and I don't see Lovie Smith making a change. The only way it happens is if Hardy Nickerson  decides to go out on his own as a coordinator in the NFL. But it is Lovie Smith's call.

I think Illinois will have a difficult time bringing in a high-profile defensive coordinator because the coaches know they won't be in charge. On ofense, it is Rod Smith's deal. Period. On defense, it is Lovie Smith.

I'm going to watch closely to see what Lovie Smith does with the open spot. His son is certainly an option, but he might want to bring in somebody with a high level recruiting background.

Anonymous Jim wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am

Did the young man that decommitted over weekend give a reason for his decision?

Bob Asmussen wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am
Profile Picture

Anonymous Jim,


None that I have seen. I am trying to get more information on it and will keep you updated. It was odd when you consider his high school coach is now on Lovie Smith's staff. Like all kids who decommit, he thanked the Illinois staff. Never want to burn any bridges.

Illini Football Fan wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am

Bob -

What's your rationale/justification in slotting the Illini into # 9 position of the B10 Power rankings? What makes Illinois ahead of Maryland, Indiana, and Nebraska?

What are the key elements in beating Purdue this Saturday?

Thank you.


Bob Asmussen wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am
Profile Picture

Illini Football Fan,


Illinois was coming off a win and Maryland and Nebraska had just lost. There are no real parameters for the Power Poll. It is simply my opinion on Sunday afternoon. I try to keep the poll curent as best as I can. noting trends. Illinois is on a positive track.

A couple of keys for an Illinois win: Keep the ball as much as possible, which keeps the Purdue offense off the field. And make sure David Blough doesn't have 400+ yards of offense. If he has a big day, it will mean trouble for Illinois.

john in Tucson wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am

Bob -- re helmets, the concussion issue is, as I understand it, the movement of the brain within the skull, and helmets cannot protect against that.

On another matter, though, do you think we are seeing any improvement in the defensive line play?



Bob Asmussen wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am
Profile Picture

John in Tucson,


Great point about the helmets. That makes a ton of sense.

I think the defensive line can and will improve as the players get more healthy. Jamal Milan played at Rutgers and that gives the unit a boost. I think Tymir Oliver is an underrated guy,


Bob Asmussen wrote on October 08, 2018 at 11:10 am
Profile Picture

I am going to end the chat for today. Thanks 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 asmussen@new-gazette,com.

If you are in downtown Champaign tonight, stop by The Esquire for our weekly radio show. Former Illini All-American Martin O'Donnell will be our guyest.

Have a great week everybody.