April 9 Bob Asmussen chat

April 9 Bob Asmussen chat

Tuesday, April 9, 2019 - 11:00am

What player has been the most impressive during spring practice? Which position needs the most improvement? If the Illini played a game this weekend, who would be in the starting lineup?

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 April 09, 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 got to watch the basketball title game Monday night. It was much better than I would have hoped for. I figured it would be in the 50s and really boring. But both teams shot well at times. Neat to see Dick Bennett enjoy his son's success. That's what all parents want.

Illinois football is past the midway point of spring ball. The team has been short-handed, especially on the offensive line. As long as the injuries aren't serious, it is not a big deal. If left to me, there would be limited contact in the spring and it would be more of a mental exexcise. The idea is to get the guys to the season.

I am looking forward to Saturday's spring game. The weather forecast seems decent. Good that the school is returning to a spring game after a few years off.

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

 

Arizona Bob wrote on April 09, 2019 at 11:04 am

What are our chances of getting one or more grad transfers for this fall? I understand that at least one WR from USC is interested, and MAYBE a DE. I'm kind of surprised that with two former USC coaches on the Illini staff (Clark on DL and the new secondary coach) that we haven't had more interest from USC DBs, WRs and LBs since it seems they're really cleaning house over at USC, and there are a lot of 3 and 4 stars there looking for new homes.

I'm also a little surprised (and disappointed) that Coach Rod Smith hasn't attracted more interest from all the offensive players transferring from Arizona.

Do you have any guesses on which transfers we still may get for next fall?

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 09, 2019 at 11:04 am
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Arizona Bob,

The biggest needs for the Illini going forward are at receiver and on the offensive line, where the starters are solid, but depth is a concern.

Two Southern Cal players visited during the weekend. I think receiver Trevon Sidney would be the highest priority. The other player, a defensive end, is at a position where Illinois has talent and depth. Although, adding at any spot is always possible.

I think Lovie Smith will add a receiver or two, with Sidney a possibility. The connection with the Illinois coaching staff has to help,

The players came on a good weekend. The weather was nice and there were a lot of recruits on campus saying positive things about the school.

I'm guessing Rod Smith has expressed interest in some of the players departing from Arizona. But there has to be a need at this end and a desire for the players to move east from the Arizona end. Khalil Tate is said to be in a good situation at Arizona. It would be unusual to leave there for an uncertain position at Illinois.

Illini Football Fan wrote on April 09, 2019 at 11:04 am

Bob -

We now know that the football team got some nice Littyville momentum going with 3 recruits committed to the Illini in last two days.  With your crystal ball, who do you see as the next 3-5 recruits committing in the next two weeks? Do you think any of the USC grad transfers will annouce for the Illini this week?

How different or similar will this Saturday's Spring game be compared to the scrimmage practice last Saturday?

Thanks -

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 09, 2019 at 11:04 am
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Illini Football Fan,

The early focus in recruiting seems to be on the kids from the area. So, my guess is the next few recruits will be from either Illinois or across the river in Missouri.

There are two players in East St. Louis that Illinois wants, Lawaun Powell and Antonio Johnnson. Maybe one of those players will be the next to say yes. Or maybe one of the guys from St. Louis Trinity Catholic. The hiring of Cory Patterson seems to be paying off for Lovie Smith with the St. Louis area interest.

Saturday's spring game will look a lot like Saturday's scrimmage. Lovie Smith wants to get good work in, while also geting looks at a wide range of players. Exposing his team to the public is a secondary goal.

The format hasn't been announced. It will be interesting to see if the teams are split up evenly and a score is kept. I will ask about it after tomorrow's practice.

 

 

 

 

Arizona Bob wrote on April 09, 2019 at 11:04 am

It seems that we'll be having several underweight OLBs playing in the two deep for us next year with recruit Shammond Cooper and returning DBs Ware and DeGroot all about 200 lbs and switching positions. What are the chances that they can put on 20-30 lbs of muscle without losing too much speed by August? Is Cooper currently under the tutelege of our strength coach, and, if so, how's he doing in the strength training? I understand he was at the scrimmage this Saturday. Is he bulking up yet?

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 09, 2019 at 11:04 am
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Arizona Bob,

 

The idea is for all of the guys to bulk up while retaining their speed and athleticism. There is plenty of time to get that done before the season.

My memories of Lou Hernandez the first time is that he was really good at adding positive weight to his guys. There were safeties that became linebackers without much trouble.

While the Illinois staff can talk to incoming recruits about weight training, diet, etc, they won't work with them until the guys get her for good. That will be in the summer. It's usually enough time to get the players close to being ready for the season. And many of them continue to add size and strength during the season. But the biggest gains are made after the season, when Hernandez dominates most of their time. So, for players like Shammond Cooper, he will look a lot different next spring at this time.

 

Arizona Bob wrote on April 09, 2019 at 11:04 am

With our current DE (outside of Roundtree) either banged up (Cerny, etc) or not impressing last year, what are the chances of Opkala and Randolph making the two deep next year? Both could really disrupt the passing lanes with their height and long arms, and they each have better size (how about muscle?) as lur returning DEs.

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 09, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Arizona Bob,

The biggest question with incoming players is there ability to handle the physical and mental work. If those guys work hard between now and the start of camp, they will have a chance to play early. I am really intrigued by Randolph, who was on our All-State team in 2018. He is obviously a talented football player, but also gained from his time as a basketball player. I won't be a bit surprised if he comes in and makes an early move.

The good thing for Ililnois is that if the young guys aren't ready to go, there are enough experienced guys like Bobby Roundtree to take the bulk of the snaps.

I always go back to Simeon Rice when it comes to defensive ends at Illinois. First day in practice, the coaches knew he was not an ordinary guy. They couldn't keep him off the field and he piled up sacks right away.

 

Anonymous User wrote on April 09, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Great to see the Illini going from no FB commits to getting some pretty impressive positive vibes within the mater of 48 hrs. Seems like the new coaches are having a good effect on the prospective HS athletes. Do you think the new facilities are having an effect? Do they get to tour the place or just see artist renditions? Does ot seem like Lovie is able to do some pretty good closing salvos in his recruiting pitch or what? Also getting a couple of high Chicago prospects really is good for future. Also from Missouri. Do you see them getting some from Florida and Texas or will they mainly concentrate on the Midwest?  Thanks for the chats!

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 09, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Anon,

 

No question the new facilities help. It puts Illinois on a level playing field with the rest of the Big Ten, or in some cases beyond them.

I believe the players get to tour the new building. From what I hear, it is going to be one of the best around.

I think Lovie Smith is finding out what works best in recruiting in college. I think it took some time for him when he returned from the NFL. And it is different as a head coach than as an assistant.

I also think the staff has a better handle on what it wants and is making inroads with some of the important areas.

Illinois will still continue to recruitit Texas and Florida. There are ties there. But I think the move is toward more kids from nearby.

Anonymous User wrote on April 09, 2019 at 12:04 pm

With the great start to FB recruiting, hopefully this vibe will carry over to the season and get us six wins and a bowl game and no more 63-0 games' Does it seem like the defense has improved? I think that is the single biggest improvement to any chance for a bowl game doesn't it? Also with the FB roster still playing catchup in the ways of talent, was our reruiting that bad under the two previous coaches? Would be nice if some of the other highly rated visitors ove the weekend would commit too. Now we just have to keep them commited until the signing period. Wouldn't you think a noticeably improved Illini this fall do that?

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 09, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Anon2,

Certainly, the pieces on defense look better. But how will it work when the games start? I don't think we will get an answer on the defense until the start of Big Ten play. I expect Illinois to sweep the nonconferece games without much challenge. When Illinois goes against conference teams, the level of play will need to improve.

I think the defensive numbers will get better in 2019. And I agree that is the key to winning six games and reaching a bowl.

In my 30 years covering Illinois, the biggest issue has been the constant turnover of coaches. One was because of a better offer (John Mackovic), one was a  misguided decision by the president/AD to fire the coach (Ron Zook). Every time you start over, it means two or three steps backward.

Tim Beckman's final recruiting classes were hampered by his status. Hard to recruit guys when most people think you are on the way out. I think Bill Cubit put together a good class in his one year as head coach despite really difficult circumstances. Some of those players are important contributors on the current team.

No question, Illinois will get a huge boost if the team is able to win six-plus games this season. It will be a sign that the program is going in the right direction and will make it easier for the better players to join.

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 09, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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I am going to cut the chat off for today. Sorry about any questions I didn't get to.

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.

 

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