Jan. 14 Bob Asmussen chat

Jan. 14 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, January 14, 2019 - 11:00am

When will Lovie Smith pick a defensive coordinator? What about the other spot on the Illinois staff? How mamy players will the team add in February?

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

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 14, 2019 at 11:01 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. Sorry for the late start. It took me 15 minutes to scrape my car off this morning. I love snow, but I am not a big fan of cold.

Hope everyone had a great weekend. With no Illinois game to cover, I watched a lot of football and college basketball on TV. And I helped the local economy with trips to restaurants before my son went back to college.

The Illinois men's basketball team will try to get on track with a home game against Minnesota and a trip to Iowa. A split this week for Brad Underwood's team would be a step in the right direction.

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



Daytripper wrote on January 14, 2019 at 11:01 am


Since I brought up the transfer portal last week, there was an excellent article by Bruce Feldman in The Athletic over the weekend.  Seems like it's kind of the wild west, where, as a coach/recruiter, you have to do a lot of homework as to who you are pursuing.  Lots of D2 players in the portal.

Any idea if we are done with the Class of 2019 and on to 2020?  If not, any names to be looking out for?

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 14, 2019 at 11:01 am
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Great information. Bruce Feldman does a good job. I will check out his article after the chat.

As I understand it, the Illini are not done with the 2019 class. They will take two more players, likely transfers. I think they are looking for a linebacker and an offensive lineman. No names to toss around yet. A lot of this could happen after spring drills end and guys become aware of where they are on their respective depth charts. Stay tuned.

Anonymous User wrote on January 14, 2019 at 11:01 am

Do you find it strange that Lovie hasn't filled his coaching positions as of yet? Don't you think Lovie would have liked having these people in place for the ealy signing recruiting period, or was it more important to have all the college bowl games finished first? I guess it would have given him a larger pool of coaches to chose from. Wouldn't that have been very useful for the recruiting picture? Or do you think he will be his own DC? What are the other position coaching openings on the staff? Do you think he will put an emphasis on the new assistants being able to recruit? Hope so!

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 14, 2019 at 11:01 am
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I have asked about it. A lot. The sense I get is Lovie Smith is not in a hurry to make a move. The first recruiting period was a priority. Spring ball isn't going to start until late March, so as long as a coach is in place by then, I don't see it as a problem.

There is a chance, I have been told, that Lovie Smith stays as defensive coordinator. I don't know what the odds are, but I know it is possible.

Illinois definitely needs a linebackers coach. Beyond that, there is some flexibility. It could hire someone to help with the defensive line or in the secondary. I think it will someone on the defensive side.

I think the new coaches will be strong recruiters. Likely coaches in areas that Lovie Smith values for its talent.


Arch 1973 wrote on January 14, 2019 at 11:01 am

Hi Bob,

To date are the two linemen, Solomon & Martin the only players who have transfered or left the program?  Do the incoming transfers count against the annual recruiting count or just overall scholarship roster count of 85?  Are there any mechanisms to assign recruits to past or future classes?

Also an observation, in the national championship games the thing that impressed me was the abillity of the receivers to hang onto the balls.  Totally at an ability level above what was seen in the last several years at U of I, maybe with a few exceptions involving Dudek and Allison.

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 14, 2019 at 11:01 am
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Arch 1973,


Adam Solomon and Zeke Martin are the only two players that have announced they are moving on. Lovie Smith talks to all the players on the team after the season and talks about his plans for them in the future. The chance for playing time for Martin and Solomon was going to be limited, so they are moving on. Good luck to both guys. Solomon is going to Illinois State, where he will be a big help.

The transfers don't count against the yearly limit. They do count against the overall limit of 85. As I understand it, Illinois be close to that number in 2019, but has a few spots left.

I agree with you about the receivers and their ability to catch the ball. Amazing. The guys from Clemson were out of this world. Like they had glue on their hands. I think players work on that kind of stuff more than ever before and it is clearly paying off. I think we would be stunned by the hand strength of current players.


Anonymous User wrote on January 14, 2019 at 11:01 am

The Illini now have 13 commits for FB for 2019. I figure they will take about 2-4, what do you think? Also will 2020 be the year they can get back to larger classes, because of the number of players graduating? Does it seem to you the squad is becoming more talented and deeper? I know its early, but what do you think about the chances of 6-6 or better and a bowl game?

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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Anon 2,


I think there will be at least two more players joining the team.

The classes look to balancing out after this year. There will be bigger numbers coming in 2020 and beyond. In a perfect world, the classes would be in the 20-22 range each season, which allows for better depth and also some expected departures. Like in basketall, football players seem to be moving on quicker than in the past.

I agree that the talent level is improving and the depth should be better. Still, there is a long way to go.

Looking at the schedule, Illinois is set up to win at least six games in 2019. Providing the offense continues its upward trend with a new quarterback and the defense makes some strides. The team should sweep the three nonconference games. There are a handful of winnable Big Ten games.

I will go out on a limb now and predict Illinois becomes bowl eligible next season.

Illini Football Fan wrote on January 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Bob -

With the apparent likelihood that Jeff Thomas return to Miami for his final year, who will most likely take his spot? A grad transfer? Will Thomas returning to Miami (hypothetical) actually be a good thing for the Illini in the long run?

Who among current Illini assistant football coaches possibly looking elsewhere for new jobs? Or will there be 100% retention?  How soon will we find out if Terry Hawthorne becomes a grad assistant?

Thanks :- )

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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Illini Football Fan,

Nothing official has been said about Jeff Thomas one way or the other. I am looking into his situation and will write about it soon,

At this point, all of the assistant coaches are scheduled to come back. Lovie Smith wants his guys to look into opportunities if it is a chance to grow. I think at some point Rod Smith will have a chance to be a head coach and I expect Lovie Smith will be supportive. That will be down the road.

Terry Hawthorne enjoys working at his alma mater East St. Louis. But I think he would be a big help to the Illinois staff. He's a good guy and it would be nice to see him more often.

Jim - from Mis-ery wrote on January 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Bob: I haven't heard Coran Taylor's name much at all with regard to the upcoming QB derby. I'm wondering if he might be interested in playing a different position or if u have had any contact there? A kid with that running ability should be able to help in some fashion. Thx. 

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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Coran Taylor is a talented player who wasn't quite as college-ready as M.J. Rivers and Matt Robinson. But I know Rod Smith likes him. The spring will be big for Taylor. A chance to get better and show the coaches his ability to run the offense. Sometimes, guys advance at different rates. He has many of the attributes that fit the offense.

I don't think he will be tried at another position until is decided that he can't help at quarterback. It is too early to know that.

sangman69 wrote on January 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Are any of the transfer players (Thomas, Ford, Miller) enrolled for the second semester?

How many high school recruits are early enrollees?

Is Lovie/Rod looking at a grad transfer QB or are they confident that AJ Bush and Isaiah Williams will be able to get the ball to the receivers?

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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I don't have confirmation on any of the spring enrollees, but am checking. We will let you know as soon as we know. I don't believe any of the high school signees are coming early. I will check on that too.

I don't believe Illinois will add a grad transfer QB. I think the coaches are happy with the returnees and incoming Isaiah Willams.


sangman69 wrote on January 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm

The Belleville News Democrat reported the transfer of Rey Estes, former East St. Louis qb and University of Minnesota defensive back, to the U of I. Has Lovie confirmed the transfer and is he enrolled for the second semester?

Bob Asmussen wrote on January 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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I have been told Rey Estes will not be joining the Illini. I will try to find out what his plans are and report back in next week's chat.


Bob Asmussen wrote on January 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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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@news-gazette.com.

If you are in town tonight, please stop by The Esquire for our weekly radio show. Illinois men's tennis coach Brad Dancer will be our guest. Hope to see you there.

Have a great week everyone. Stay warm.