April 23 Bob Asmussen chat

April 23 Bob Asmussen chat

Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - 11:00am

Any truth to the rumors that Illinois is looking for a graduate transfer quarterback? What area does the team most need to fix between now and training camp? When will the Illini land their next commit for 2020?

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 23, 2019 at 11:04 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. Hope everyone had a great weekend. I went to St. Louis for Easter and ate way too much good food. The diet starts today.

The next big event for football is the NFL draft, which starts Thursday. Former Illini Nick Allegretti is hoping to get a call during the three-day draft. Even if he doesn't get picked, he will be in a camp as a free agent signee.

Illinois baseball has a big weekend series against Nebraska. After a rocky start to the conference season, Dan Hartleb's guys are on a roll.

Illinois football is done for the spring, but the players will be busy this summer getting ready for training camp.

We have many questions ready, so I am going to stop stalling. As always, thanks for your participation.



Anonymous User wrote on April 23, 2019 at 11:04 am

Bob- Three questions:


 * Do you anticipate the coaching staff will move Coran Taylor to a new position?  If so, which position? With his size, speed, and athleticism seems like he can be better utilized @ a different position instead of being buried in the depth chart.


* With all of the incoming talent, what is your 2019 record prediction? 


* Can you give me two or three guys who are under the radar that you think will have a big season? 

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 23, 2019 at 11:04 am
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Three really good questions.

I have resisted asking the coaches about Coran Taylor because it is simply too early in his career to make that move. Before a player changes position, both sides need to be convinced that he can't be effective as his original spot. I don't think Illinois is there yet with Taylor.

He is a talented athlete and would certainly help the team at another position. But the decision has to be mutual. Right now, my guess he is stays at quarterback during the 2019 season. If he doesn't get on the field, then a move will be tried in the spring.

One more thing on this, I assume Isaiah Williams will be ahead of Taylor when he arrives on campus. Being fourth string would limit Taylor's training camp reps.

I just did a quick count on the record and came up with 6-6. That means wins in all three-nonconference games and a 3-6 record in the Big Ten. One of those wins will be against Rutgers. The other two are against Nebraska, Minnesota, Purdue or Northwestern.

I think the tight ends beyond Luke Ford will have a good season. So Caleb Reams, Daniel Barker and Griffin Palmer, Trenard Davis never gets enouth credit, so put him on the "look out" list. and Dre Brown will have an impact, especially on special teams.

Panera Guy wrote on April 23, 2019 at 11:04 am


Thanks as always for taking our questions today. Here’s one that I’m sure you’re expecting:

What is the NCAA’s deal with Illinois and Luke Ford? Do you think it’s a problem with the application or something else? It’s hard not to think there’s something else going on. Is it because of the support for the Chief? His reason for transfer is more than understandable, others who applied around the same time have already been given an answer, there has to be something. 

Do you have any updates on the former Illini transfers? Haven’t heard much from any of them. 


Bob Asmussen wrote on April 23, 2019 at 11:04 am
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Panera Guy,


Thanks for the kind words.

From what I understand, the Ford application was done well. The expectatio is he will be cleared this season, but you can never be sure until you get the final word.

His case seems pretty simple to me. He came closer to home and should be allowed to play this season. I will be shocked if that isn't the ruling. Because there are no games for three months, there is no pressing need to know, other than to reduce the anxiety for the Illinois coaches and Ford supporters.

No updates on other former Illini in tthe portal. I will keep checking. Their moves figure to get settled in the next few weeks.

Arizona Bob wrote on April 23, 2019 at 11:04 am

Bob, I know that it appears that we're pursuing transfer QBs for 2019, but it seems like we REALLY need a prep QB for 2020. I haven't heard much about who we're targeting.

There is a LOT of risk at that point of being caught with our pants down at the position, and you can't just let that happen.

The way I see it, Williams has great talent, speed and strong arm but he has a long way to go to be a quality starting QB in the B1G. He MAY turn out to be second coming of "Juice" Williams, but he could also not pan out for numerous reasons.

If we get a clear and successful starter at QB from the group of Williams, RiversIII, Taylor and Robinson next fall, I wouldn't be surprised if we lost one or two of them to transfer. That's why we need a prep QB recruit in 2020, perhaps a QB who's a "project" with high upside who isn't quite a four star yet.

What are your thoughts and insights on this?

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 23, 2019 at 11:04 am
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Arizona Bob,

I said on our radio show last night that it wouldn't make a lot of sense to add a grad transfer QB unless that player is much better than the players who will be on hand. I think M.J. Rivers and Isasiah Williams will be given a chance show they can run the offense.

If they are successful and appear set to run the team into the next decade, then you are right: one or two of the other quarterbacks will leave.

I promise Rod Smith is looking for his next quarterback. We know what style he prefers: a guy with a strong arm who can run. He likes to put pressure on the defense. I don't think you will see Illinois add a pro-style quarterback as long as Rod Smith is here.

Illinois has offers out to at least seven quartebacks. Three are from Texas. My guess is the coaches want someone they can develop.



Rich Patton wrote on April 23, 2019 at 11:04 am

Bob - Hope you are doing well.  How has Donny Navarro looked in the spring?  He did well as a freshman at Valpariso.  He sat out last year but practiced with the team so the coaches should know his abilities well.  What are his atrributes - speed, good hands, running good routes, etc?  How does he project for next season?


Bob Asmussen wrote on April 23, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Great to hear from you. Navarro had a good spring from what I saw. We don't get to watch much of the practices, but I also heard good things.

He plays a position where Illinois needs help. And he has already shown he can be productive in college, even if it was at a lower level.

He's got decent size and speed. The key for all of the Illinois receivers is being able to find openings. That was Mikey Dudek's strength and it's what the team craves in a big way.

He will get every chance to prove he deserves to be on the field. My guess is he will be part of the receiver rotation.



Arizona Bob wrote on April 23, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Bob, how do you think the 2020 class will break down by position? My best guess is that we'll have about 19 signees; 1 QB, 2 RB, No TE, 3 WR (Jadon Thompson, Mookie Cooper and Frenchie from Trinity would be GREAT, and I'm sure we'd find a way to make room for Jennings from LW East if he were interested), 4 OL (hopefully Walker, Wesley, St John, and Kevin Tyler, three star recruits who have room to grow by the time they're needed in two years), 2 DTs (we're losing three), No DEs unless they're spectacular pass rushers we can't pass up, 4 LBs (it seems Lovie has a lot of work to do here), 3 DBs and no scholarship punters or kickers.

I expect that we'll lose a few current players before the 2020 signing date with which we can bring in grad transfers.

Do you see things differently? 

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 23, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Arizona Bob,


I mostly agree with your breakdown. But I think the class will be a little bit deeper, maybe in the low 20s. I would add a tight end, at least one more offensive lineman and one more defensive lineman.

You are right, the team will lose a few current players. It happens every year. The key is to keep the players that are part of the future and to let the ones go that you don't think will help as much.

I do get a sense that Lovie Smith and his staff are doing a better job getting involved with the top recruits.

Anonymous User wrote on April 23, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Now that the spring FB is over, I saw where the assistant FB coaches will be out on the road recruiting. Will they be able to do this for the rest of the year or is it only certain periods of time, and when are those times? Can Lovie do this to or are there limits on his off campus recruiting? Also can recruits visit anytime on campus, and can coaches, both assistant and head,have contact with recruits when they come on campus? Seems like the new coaches have communicated well with prospective players and Lovie is developing some closing recruiting skills doesn't it?

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 23, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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I believe college football is in an evaluation period now. That allows coaches to visit high schools and meet with the high school coaches and faculty members.

Late July is a quiet period and August is a dead period.

The next evaluation period runs from Sept. 1 followed by a contact period in November and December.

The whole thing is very confusing and it can't be easy for the schools to keep it straight.

As I understand the rules. players can visit on their own at any time and I believe can meet with the coaches when they come to campus, That makes sense because. You want athletes to be able to get a look at the place when they take the time to visit.

I think the current staff is doing a good job with recruiting and making better connections with the players and high school coaches. Having more former college coaches on the staff has been a positive move.

Major Tom wrote on April 23, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Hey Bob:  Here I am, at the last second.  Usually I don't get in at this time of day!  Just a few thoughts.  I am not to hip on beer sales at Illini Sporting Events.  I suppose I have had too many bad experiences at sports events in the past with people who drink to excess.  But it is not up to me.  Also, I am somewhat dubious as to transfers from USC, they never seem to stay with the program, like that player in 2018 who decommited at the last minute.  Illinois does not seem to have success keeping west coast/California players...such as Steve Brazos back in around 1984 nor the guy from Concord de Lasalle, if believe they stayed one year then bailed on the Illini.  The only success was with Mike White with some really good players like David, Oliver and Steve Williams and a few others.  JC players are difficult to keep and develope also and sometimes get themselves into trouble!  I will keep it short as time is running out on me.  Keep up the Great work, really enjoy your takes on the program.


Maj. Tom

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 23, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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Great stuff.

I think the beer sales will be fine and might add to the crowd. If somebody wants to have a beer or two at the game, me as a nondrinker am fine with that. I just don't want them to have 10 beers and then get in a car to drive home. But frankly, with tailgating going on that can happen with or without beer sales in the stadium.

I have some Illinois facilities questions. Anonymous User wrote on April 23, 2019 at 12:04 pm

I have some Illinois facilities questions if you could be so kind to answer them? I know the FB builing is scheduled to open before the season. What about the new basketball building? What is the scheduled opening for that? Will it be for both men's and women's? Also how about baseball and softball, any planned improvements there? Finally how about hockey? Seems to be pretty quiet in that area. Any word? Also would that mean a women's program in that sport also? And would the goal be to somehow build a facility to house that with say wrestling and maybe volleyball also? Sorry for all the questions.  Thanks!

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 23, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Football facility is getting closer each day and will open in July. The players will be the first ones to see it, which I think is a great idea.

Ubben is on the docket. The improvements will be for both teams.

Baseball is getting a new training area near the field. I have to check on the timing for it, but I'm thinking it will be started soon.

The hockey decision is supposed to come soon, maybe before school gets out, which is in a few weeks. The arena will be built in conjunction with Champaign. I know the city wants the new building, which will give people another reason to visit downtown. The more I think about it, the more I love the idea. I hope it happens soon.

Nobody has said there will be a women's hockey team, but it makes a lot of sense. There are other teams in the Big Ten and it would mitigate any scholarship equity issues.

Yes, volleyball, wresting and gymnastics will use the facility for home meets. I not sure they will use the building for practices.

Arizona Bob wrote on April 23, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Bob, it would seem with our running game that a bruising full back would be a great asset, but it seems that we're not recruiting any.

Why does Coach Rod not value that extra 240 lb blocker inside to clear the inside for the RB, help block blitzers and breaking DEs and slipping out of the backfield as a receiver?

Bob Asmussen wrote on April 23, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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Arizona Bob,

I'm a big fan of big fullbacks. And Illinois has had success with them over the years.

Rod Smith uses them sometimes in an H-back setup. Austin Roberts played that position I believe in 2018 and was effective as a blocker. I think you will see the tight ends function as a fullback at times. It's the same idea: put a blocker out front to lead the tailback.


Bob Asmussen wrote on April 23, 2019 at 1:04 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 11 a.m. If you have any questions between now and then, feel free to email me at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

Have a great week everybody.