April 2 Bob Asmussen chat

April 2 Bob Asmussen chat

Tuesday, April 2, 2019 - 11:00am

How did the first week of spring ball go for Lovie Smith's team? Who is leading the quarterback competition? What is the strongest position?

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

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 02, 2019 at 11:04 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. I will be here for about an hour.

Hope everyone is having a good start to the week. The weather is actually turning spring-like. I hear the 70s are coming this weekend. Awesome.

Don't know about the rest of you, but I am looking forward to the Final Four. I had Kentucky winning it all, but that isn't going to happen. Maybe next year.

Illinois football spring drills are continuing with a handful of new coaches. We won't know how much the team has improved until the season starts, but it is clear the players have gotten better physically. In training camp, we will see the full impact of Lou Hernandez.

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


Thirsty fan wrote on April 02, 2019 at 11:04 am

Bob, if I come and find you at a football game this fall, will you buy me a beer?

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 02, 2019 at 11:04 am
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Thirsty fan,

Absolutely. But don't tell anyone. I don't have enough money to buy one for everybody.

Great timing on your question. I am writing my column on beer sales for Wednesday.

I'm not sure I have shared this before in my chats, but I am a non-drinker. Always have been. But I don't judge. It was a choice I made in high school and never changed my mind.

Anonymous User wrote on April 02, 2019 at 11:04 am

After viewing the Illini spring FB practices what position group do you see as most improved on both sides of the ball? Which player do you expect to have a breakout season on both sides of the ball. With the offense having improved last year, my opinion is that the Illini's best bowl chances will come as a result of a very improved defense. What do you think? Hopefully Lovie can work to signifacantly improve this unit!

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 02, 2019 at 11:04 am
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It's a little tricky to judge after a few practices, but it's clear that the offensive line is better. I think Bob McClain was the right hire to work with the guys. I think there will be growth in terms of technique. After talking to several of the players, it sounds like Luke Butkus worked more on the mental/attitude part of the game.

McClain is also on the same page as offensive coordinator Rod Smith. There is a real upside there.

I think the secondary has made strides. The numbers have improved and there is more help on the way. I exptect the group to do a better job of tackling, covering and forcing turnovers.

The breakout player on defense will be one of the linemen: Calvin Avery or Verdis Brown. On offense, there is a strong need at receiver, so I will go with Carlos Sandy and/or Luke Ford.

You are right about the defense. It has to improve and I think it will. There is no where to go but up and I think having Lovie Smith working with them every day will help. If the team makes a defensive jump similar to the one it made last year on offense, and the offense gets better too, I think the team will be in a bowl. Not with eight or nine wins, but with six or seven.


Anonymous User wrote on April 02, 2019 at 11:04 am

Bob, I see and hear all kinds of positives from Lou Hernandez working out great, to improved QB depth, and team depth as a whole. Do you think 6-6 and a bowl game as a legit possibility? Are you surprised and concerned the Illini have no FB commits yet? I know they have a big recruiting weekend coming up. Do you think Lovie is being more selective in offering scholarships? Do you think he has higher rated players in mind? Do you think HS players see improvement both on and off the field and are more willing to consider Illinois? How do you think the new coaches are working out? Sorry for so many questions, and as always thanks for the chats!

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 02, 2019 at 11:04 am
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I do think 6-6 is possible. The schedule helps. The team should sweep Akron, UConn and Eastern Michigan. Then, it needs to go 3-6 in the Big Ten. There are some difficult games against Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa. But there are winnable games in the division. Taking three of those games is not too much to ask.

On recruiting, I don't think it is a big deal that there are no commits at this point. It is going to be a smaller class.

To his credit, Lovie Smith is going after better players. Sometimes, you have to wait a bit longer to land those guys. It is a very good year in Illinois and the school is under consideration with many of those players. Of the Top 20 players in Illinois, I think it would be big if Lovie Smith landed 5-7. Possible.

It is important for Illinois to win this year. That will make it easy for the top recruits in state to say yes.

I think the new hires are all good ones. Bringing back Mike Bellamy was a no-brainer. Same with Lou Hernandez. And promoting Bob McClain made a lot of sense. The defensive staff added Keynodo Hudson and Miles Smith. Who can know Lovie Smith better than his son?



Old School Grump wrote on April 02, 2019 at 11:04 am

I agree with you about basketball.  You “score.”  You don’t “score the basketball.” You don’t “score the football” or “score the hockey puck.”  At least I’ve never heard those expressions.  So why would you “score the basketball?”  Tell Matt I said so.  These whippersnappers and their fancy talk. 

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 02, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Old School Grump,


I don't want to be that older guy who picks on younger people when they use the wrong terms. And obviously, I have no room to talk when it comes to speaking. When my voice got whacked by strokes, I realized shorter is better. Why use three words "score the basketball" when you can use one "score"? Makes no sense to me.

I appreciate you backing me up on this. Whoever first used the term "score the basketball" needs to be stopped ... from talking.

Olaf Blab wrote on April 02, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Some basketball questions. Hope that is ok.

Will Tev Jones, AlanGriffin or Samba Kane transfer?

What are the odds of Higgs or Antwain January ever playing a game for Illinois?

Odds that Ayo is back next year?

Odds that Giorgi plays for 4 years?

Where did Leron Black end up?

Thanks, Bob. 

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 02, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Olaf Blab,


Of course, I will answer basketball questions. To the best of my ability.

Brad Underwood pretty much had a new team this year. If I am him, I want as many guys back as possible. I believe he is meeting with the guys now. My guess is that most, if not all, of the guys will be back.

Odds on Higgs/January playing here: 5:1

Ayo Back: 1:1

Giorgi plays four years: 2:1

Leron Black was picked in the G League draft, but was cut during training camp. He played in Argentina. I am not sure what his plans are going forward, but will try to find out.


Bob Asmussen wrote on April 02, 2019 at 12:04 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 Tuesday at the same time. If you have any questions between now and then, feel free to email me at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

Have a great week everyone. Enjoy the Final Four.