Nov. 26 Bob Asmussen chat

Nov. 26 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, November 26, 2018 - 11:00am

What does Lovie Smith's new deal mean for the Illinois football program? When will the team land its next commitment? Which of the current seniors has the best chance to play at the next level?

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

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 26, 2018 at 11:11 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. Sorry for the late start. My car was iced over and it took me awhile to scrape it off. I love snow, but am not a big fan of winter. I will be here for about an hour.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I went to see Illinois play at Nortwestern. A much more competitive game than I expected. Illinois played well and Northwestern seemed to back off in the second hallf.

Big news on Sunday with Lovie Smith's contract extension. Not surprising news. Once Josh Whitman decided to stick with Lovie Smith, he needed to add years to help the coach in recruiting. Will it work? We will find out in December.

This is a really fun time of the year. I like the conference title games a lot and also look forward to all of the great basketball being played. As long as the satellite dish doesn't freeze up, I am good to go.

Before I answer your questions, thanks as always for your participation. I am grateful for your interest.

Let's get to it.



teachdacc2 wrote on November 26, 2018 at 11:11 am



I trust your Thanksgiving was a good one.  With the coaching merry go round starting, any projections regarding DC for the Illini?  With the new extension for Coach Lovie will this also lead to salary increase for Coach Smith, OC, which is much deserved?

Any projected major changes for those still on staff?  Any coaches from the Chicago area likely be added to the staff?  

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 26, 2018 at 11:11 am
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Thanksgiving was great. Too short, but still great. Hope you had a nice one too.

I don't think Lovie Smith will open up the DC search like he did with the offensive coordinator. I get the idea he has someone in mind to join the program. In my opinion, it needs to be someone with a college background. If he goes back to the NFL for his DC, I think that would be a mistake. I don't sense the hire will happen right away. More likely, he will get past the December signing date and then pursue his coordinator.

I asked Lovie Smith about any other coaching changes and he said he doesn't anticipate any. Of course, guys can always move on for better jobs.

If I am Illinois, I am bumping Rod Smith's pay and adding years to the deal. Get him in the $750,000 range to make him feel good about the place. Others will see what he has done at Illinois and might pursue him. If one of the high-profile openings is filled by a defensive-minded head coach, that yould be a place that might come after Rod Smith.

I think the coach and his family like it here. And he's got autonomy with the offense. Long term. he wants to be a head coach and if he puts together more years like 2018, he will have a chance. The team moved from near the bottom nationally in total offense to the 60s. A huge jump and Smith deserves most of the credit. As a bonus, the offense was fun to watch. As another bonus, Rod Smith is a good guy who has embraced C-U.


Jim - from Mis-ery wrote on November 26, 2018 at 11:11 am

Bob: Going back and looking at the film of the season, the weaknesses of the defense were pretty clear. The cover two defense loads up on the outside receivers but leaves the center of the field to be covered at times by linebackers. Most linebackers to include ours can't cover speedy slot receivers and sturdy tight ends. Without a consistent pass rush, a good passer will have success. Our defensive line had a rough year, putting more pressure on our linebackers and you see the results. Hopefully some of the projects that we have recruited will pay dividends next year. 

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 26, 2018 at 11:11 am
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You make a lot of great points. I have not been convinced that Lovie Smith's defense will work against a power conference in college football. You are right about the opponents taking advantage of the center of the field. Unless Illinois has world-class players on defense, it won't be able to compete against the top offenses in the college game.

I really think Lovie Smith would be smart to hire someone who has dealt with college offenses as a coordinator. He doesn't need to scrap his defense, but a tweak or two would be good.

Opponents have shown they know how to attack the Illini. They have been successful with the run and the pass. With the short game and with the long ball.

The point total Illinois allowed this season is the most in school history. If that doesn't change, the team will not win. Period. The offense is healing. The defense remains in intensive care.

Jim - from Mis-ery wrote on November 26, 2018 at 11:11 am

Bob: Great article on Lovie's contract nailed it! Thanks for your incite during the football season and beyond. We did get more wins but we got large scores racked up on us as well. It appears that the game of football has changed to become more about offense and consequently the QB position has become soooo important. Michigan is a prime example. They recruit alot of highly rated talent but haven't had great quarterbacking. But even their highly rated defense can get pummeled for 62 points when they throw pick 6s and get blocked punts etc. The next 12 months should be really revealing for this football staff. Go Illini !

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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Thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate it.

Though Lovie Smith has five years left on his contract the reality is he has one year. He doesn't need to win the Big Ten in 2019 or even necessarily go to a bowl game. Five wins will be enough if the losses aren't similar to ones suffered most of 2018. The 63-0 loss at home to Iowa really got fans talking about a change. I didn't think it was going to happen.

If there are more games like that in 2019, then Illinois will think long and hard about a change. The difference betwen now and then is the cost to the athletic program.


john in Tucson wrote on November 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Well, I admit the extension took me by surprise, but Josh's rationale seems sound. My question is really this: in the press last week, Lovie is quoted as essentially being stubborn about sticking with the defensive scheme that has not worked, whatever the reason might be, but a DIA person told me before Saturday's game at NU that Lovie had been saying for several days last week that everything would be open for review. Which do you think is true?

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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John in Tuscon,


Great to hear from you.

Lovie Smith says some version of that every season. He wants the product on the field to improve and is willing to make changes. But his base philosophy on defense won't change.

That doesn't mean he won't make adjustments. I think he knows more today about the college game than he did in 2016 when he took over at Illinois. He has eight months to bring any changes he feels are necessary. Football people see the flaws and opponents have bene able to exploit them. I am guessing the changes in the defense won't be shown until next season. The staff will keep is pretty bland in the spring and during training camp, just like Rod Smith did this season. That worked out well.

Bottom line, Lovie Smith knows that he needs to win at a higher level to be here beyond 2019. I believe he will make some changes, but won't start over. So, somewhere in the middle between not changing a thing and open to changing everything.


Daytripper wrote on November 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm


While on some level I can understand Lovie's contract extension, there is very little choice but to completely remake the defensive scheme, as it is obvious that Lovie's "Tampa Two" doesn't work in college.  What input does Josh Whitman have on future changes in both scheme and staff?  Seems like Josh has hitched his wagon to Lovie and, absent improvements in the two major revenue producing sports that will put fans in seats, he is headed toward a budget problem.

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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The coaching hires will be up to Lovie Smith, though Josh Whitman will have his say. A former coach told me if the AD is making hires to the staff, you might as well give him the whistle. Josh Whitman played football at a high level and even more important, knows a lot of people in the business. It would make sense for him to seek some advice.

Is there a coordinator out there that can take Illinois from one of the worst defenses in the country to the Top 10? Doubt it. But there is someone out there that can help the team get in the Top 50. And with the improvement of the offense that might be enough.

One more thing, Loive Smith has been around a long time. While he seems wedded to his own defense, he also understands that there are other ways to win football games. I think he has enough experience to realize he does't have all the answers and a fresh take might be the best thing for him and the program. We will see how it works out.


Anonymous User wrote on November 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Just listened to Josh Whitman on a Chicago radio station. Th nervousness I had about Lovie'e extension was somewhat calmed by his interview. My thoughts are he better be right, because he is betting his Illinois AD career on it. The questions I have are many. Do you think Josh is hands on Lovie's program and talked with him about what he plans to do with the D-coorinator job, as well of the rest of his coaching hires? Doesn't he have about three openings? Do you think he would hand over the defensive reins to an hopefully experience coordinator, because he scheme obviously is not working? Do you think concessions were made in this area? I have some suggestions for Lovie and Josh. Spend the money, swallow your pride, and hire a proven D-coordinator and let him have at it. Hire the other assistants with a priority of not only teaching but who can recruit like hell! Any chance a guy who bleeds orange and blue like Nathan Scheelhasse and can recruit Chicago, then find him a spot on the coching staff. Keep Rod Smith and let him have at it again. And for heaven sakes recruit, recruit, and then recruit some more!

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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There are two current openings, which I assume will be used on defebse. It would make a lot of sense to hire the coordinator and then let him help with the final opening.

I think Lovie Smith will hire someone who thinks similar about defense to him. That doesn't mean there won't be some changes. but there won't be a total revamp either.

I would look for the Rod Smith of defense. A high energy, innovative guy with, as you suggested, a strong reputation as a recruiter. There are people out there who fit the criteria and Illinois will be able to spend some money on the new assistants.

Recruiting is the key to the future of Lovie Smiths' program. The current class is ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten. In the next few months that needs to improve.



Kid Rock wrote on November 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Bob,   Verdis Brown and Larry Boyd are 2 guys who will be able to help us next season.  What others took RS seasons and can contribute next year, also?  We need to land Shammond Cooper and Dru Mathis to bolster the LB core, don't you agree?  

Bob Asmussen wrote on November 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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Kid Rocky,


A couple guys who will have a chance to help right away are Kievan Myers and Edwin Carter, who got off to a great start before getting hurt. The other guy you might want to watch is quarterback Matt Robinson.

I have heard good things about Larry Boyd's progress. I assume he will step in and fill Nick Allegretti's spot on the offensive line.

Frankly, I think it would bea  great idea for all freshman linemen to redshirt. Rarely are they ready to go. Boyd will benefit from the year on the sidelines.

You are right, the close of recruiting is critical for Lovie Smith. He needs to land high-end defenders at all spots. The offense isn't quite as critical becaue of the players who have already made commitments. But if a great receiver, running back or offensive lineman wants to play at Illinois, the school will find a place for him.


Bob Asmussen wrote on November 26, 2018 at 12:11 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 Monday 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 are in downtown Champaign tonight, stop by The Esquire for our weekly show.

Have a great week everyone. Stay warm.