Nov. 12 Bob Asmussen chat

Nov. 12 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, November 12, 2018 - 10:30am

How did Lovie Smith's team look at Nebraska? Which departing senior will Illinois miss the most? Where will the team finish in the Big Ten recruiting rankings.

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 November 12, 2018 at 10:11 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. I will be here for about an hour and then will bop over to Lovie Smith's press conference.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I spent it in frigid Nebraska, watching a good performance by AJ Bush Jr. in his return to his first school. The Illinois offense played well, but the defense and special teams struggled again.

Illinois needs to sweep its last two games to earn its first bowl bid since 2014.

It was a bittersweet game for Illini running back Reggie Corbin, who went over 1,000 yards for the season but missed the second half with a leg injury.

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


Arizona Bob wrote on November 12, 2018 at 10:11 am

Bob, do you think it makes sense for Lovie to hire either a LB/DC/CB coach prior to the end of the season to start after the last game (if they're currently employed in coaching), someone to start earlier (if they're currently available, such as many NFL college coaches who were let go with an entire staff like Coach Byrd) and help put in recruiting, or just wait until the end of the season and recruit with Rod Smith, Patterson, Hayes Stoker. Butkus, Byrd and Austin Clark?

We can't expect to compete when we only have 6 mediocre recruiters and a very slow start to recruiting. Bringing in three available "rainmakers" who could start now and boost recruiting seems the smartest path if we can get the right ones.

I don't think ST coach Ligashesky has brought in a single 3* or better recruit since he's been here, elevated grad assistant Robert Wright (new interim LB coach) nor Lovie's son has shown they can recruit and go head to head for top players against schools like Michigan, tOSU, ND, and Iowa. 

Any chance we could bring in the recently fired Stoops as DC? Word is he's a GREAT recruiter, has areal passion for the game and has great contacts for defencisve players in this year's class on which we may capitalize....

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 12, 2018 at 10:11 am
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Arizona Bob,

Because the 2019 class is half-filled already, I don't think hiring a recruiter right away is imperative. Would it be a good idea? Yes. But I don't see it happening that fast. Schools are limited in terms of how many coaches can be on the road at one time, so I think the school has enough recruiters.

But the openings on the staff must be filled by people with college experience and they must be strong recruiters. Lovie Smith needs more guys like Rod Smith.

I don't think Mike Stoops will be the guy. I hear he is a great recruiter, but I'm not sure he would fit style-wise with Lovie Smith.

I jumped the gun last week and wrote that Lovie Smith should hire himself as DC. I think Saturday proved how wrong I was. He needs a coordinator who knows the way college offenses run today. And he needs to be willing to change some of his philosophies.

I will mention a name that will get everyone excited: Vic Koenning. He is currently the DC at Troy and I have to think he could be lured back here. Of the coaches I have covered in 30 years, he is among the most beloved by the fans. He did a great job when he was here earlier.

Arizona Bob wrote on November 12, 2018 at 10:11 am

On the subject of replacement staff hires, what about Robb Smith who just got fired from Minnesota as CB or LB coach? He had a few good years as DC at Rutgers, but only had one good year at Arkansas. He may like the chance of working his way back up, he knows the B1G, and Minne has been kicking our tails in Illinois and St Louis recruiting this year. He's already getting paid for this year, so him stepping in for recruiting season and to finsh up the year either as CB or LB coach would certainly seem to upgrade the staff over LB coach Wright and Lovie's son at CB...





Bob Asmussen wrote on November 12, 2018 at 11:11 am
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Arizona Bob,


You might be on to something. Robb Smith is available now and certainly knows the recruiting areas. I'm guessing he would like the idea of being able to play agianst P,J. Fleck every year.

When coordinators get fired, it is usually an attempt to put blame on someone other than the head coach. That seemed to be the case here.

No matter who Illinois hires, recruiting has to be the most important component.

Major Tom wrote on November 12, 2018 at 11:11 am

Hey Bob:  Disgraceful Defense!  Maybe Lovie should hire Lovie...then Lovie could fire Lovie and the football program would perhaps hire a real Defensive Coordinator!

I know I am a rotten person, it comes from 61 years of suffering!!


Major Tom


Bob Asmussen wrote on November 12, 2018 at 11:11 am
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Major Tom,

You are not a rotten person. What you are is a passionate fan. That's a good thing.

I think Lovie Smith needs to hire someone with great experience at college defense. I am not sure who that is.

I would also say there is no hurry to do it right away after the season. It will be a critical hire. Illinois has to get it right.

Daytripper wrote on November 12, 2018 at 11:11 am

After watching this Illini defense set records for futility, is there some reason that we can attribute to it?  Is Lovie's defense so demanding that college players, given their age, experience, and the amount of time they have to practice it, not capable of playing it?  Is the scheme, by it's nature, poor?  Are college offenses that much better at attacking this kind of defense?  Are our players just not that good?

What are the odds that Lovie adapts?  His track record at being able to change at the pro level is not that convincing.

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 12, 2018 at 11:11 am
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Scheme is a minor part of it. It mostly comes down to talentor lack of talent. I don't blame the current players. They are trying.

I wonder if it would be different with Pat Nelson and Tre Watson on the roster. Maybe. College offenses are so good today and have so many ways they can attack a defense. If you are short-handed skillwise, you have a major problem.

Yes, I think Lovie Smith can adapt. I assume he wants to stay at Illinois beyond 2019. To make that happen, he needs to consider changes to some of the things he is doing on the field.

The off-the-field stuff seems to be going well. The guys are mostly staying out of trouble and doing quality work in class. And I think they are involved in the community, as they were with past coaching staffs.

It is a bottom line business. When your defense gets run over week after week, that means the business is failing.

Anonymous User wrote on November 12, 2018 at 11:11 am

Did not get to see the game last Saturday, but by the score we really cannot stop too many teams from scoring. So far in the recruiting class we have only three defensive recruits. Doesn't it seem like we should be leaning here with the majority of the rest of the class? Do you think we do a big coaching search and try to acquire a name defensive coordinator who can turn things around like Smith has the offense? Do you think we lean to replace the coaches who have left with guys who can recruit,recruit, and recruit? What do you think of the last two linemen to recruit? Lastly do you think we can win at least one of the last two games? Each of them are god teams not great teams. Looks like losing that USF game late really hurt our chances for a bowl.

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 12, 2018 at 11:11 am
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I think Illinois can win either of its last two games. But it will need some help with turnovers and improved performance on defense and special teams. Iowa and Northwestern are so sound in what they do. Iowa is hurting right now and might see the Illinois game as a chance to get healthy. Northwestern is already going to the Big Ten title game. The Wildcats have no trouble getting ready for Illinois.

I like the way you put it: Illinois needs to hire the Rod Smith of defense. Someone who can convince Lovie Smith to consider some style changes.

The bulk of the remaining spots int he 2019 class need to be on defense. And both lines.

The center Illinois landed Sunday appears to be a really good player. It needs more like him. He had a lot of a high-level offers.

Another win in the final two weeks wuld help a lot with recruiting.


Bob Asmussen wrote on November 12, 2018 at 11:11 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 asmussen@news-gazette,com.

If you in downtown Champaign tonight, stop by The Esquire for our weekly radio show.

Have a great week everybody.