May 7 Bob Asmussen chat

May 7 Bob Asmussen chat

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - 11:00am

What would adding Tommy Stevens mean for the Illinois football team? Is the team still pursuing other transfers? How is 2020 recruiting going?

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 May 07, 2019 at 11:05 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmusen chat. Hope everyone is having a great start to the week.

It's been a busy time for the Illinois football team, which just lost quarterback M.J. Rivers and is apparently adding Southern Cal's Matt Fink.

That should be it for Illinois, which will now have four scholarship quarterbacks in camp. That's enough.

The football program waits on final word on Luke Ford's eligibility for 2019. I think it is a close call. If I was making the decision, he would bea allowed to play right away. But nobody asked my opinion.

Illinois baseball and softball face critical points in their seasons. Baseball looks like a lock to make the NCAA tournament, while the softball team is more of a long shot. It can help its cause at the Big Ten tournament.

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

And away we go.

Ben-Omaha wrote on May 07, 2019 at 11:05 am

Bob, always a pleasure reading your insight. Do you think the team has a problem that we aren’t seeing? What I mean by that is we’ve had 3 wr spurn the Illini and now we see MJ is leaving. Am I overreacting or will this just be the way things are until they start winning more? Keep up the good work.

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 07, 2019 at 11:05 am
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Thanks for the kind words.

I have been covering Illinois football for 30 years and in that time there have been nine winning seasons. Generally, not always, the players are happier when things are going well. Or if the team is on the way to success, like in 1998 and 2006.

The reason M.J. Rivers left is tied more to academics. The reason the three receivers didn't come is different. Jeff Thomas knew he would be eligible at Miami this season and didn't know that would be the case at Illinois. A.D. Miller also stayed put. And Dejon Brissett got a better offer.

Until Illinois starts to win on a steady basis, it is going to have trouble convincing talented players to come to C-U. That's a real thing. But it doesn't have to be a permanent condition. I think a winning team in 2019 could signal the start of a turnaround. But the questions at quarterback and a difficult Big Ten schedule make that winning season far from a certainty.



teachdacc2 wrote on May 07, 2019 at 11:05 am


Thanks for the chats.  Always enjoy reading  your insight to Illini athletics.  Interesting read on Rivers decision to transfer.  Looking at the transfer portal I would think the PSU student would go to Mississipi knowing the coach better.  That said, who are the better options for the Illini system?  Looking at the QB's on the roster, dust of your crystal ball and rate the players.  Would the team be better to red shirt the incoming freshman or is he good enough to pick up Coach Smith's system in three months?  

Any suprises so far at the other positions?  

Thanks for taking all my questions.  



Bob Asmussen wrote on May 07, 2019 at 11:05 am
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It looks like Illinois has its transfer quarterback, Matt Fink. The move makes sense for him. He was not going to play at Southern Cal. It could be a good fit for Illinois, which needs a veteran and also will have him for two years. I think Fink is a better choice than Tommy Stevens because he has time to grow. I look forward to seeing Fink play in person.

Unless Fink or Matt Robinson take control in camp and win a bunch of games early, I think you will see Isaiah Williams on the field  in 2019.

In a perfect world, Williams would redshirt and be ready to go in 2020. But Illinois is not in that situation and Williams is coming here to play. If the school tried to redshirt him, it might risk a transfer. And I think the coaches really like his skillset.

I think Illinois will continue to pursue transfer receivers. There are a bunch of them out there, which I wrote about Sunday. Illinois could also use another veteran offensive lineman. Again, there are guys available.

The roster you see right now at Illinois will not  be the roster you see when camp opens in August. I am sure of that.


I have some Illinois facilities questions. Anonymous User wrote on May 07, 2019 at 11:05 am

Is it me or does the Illini offseason FB program never seem to go smoothly in recent years. First we get transfers then we don't. Then one transfer gets ruled ineligible in a unfair way. Then our supposed starting QB decides to transfer. Then we get a great recruiting start only to have a recruit decommit after three weeks. Now recruiting seems to have come to a crawl. Seems like we can't catch a break. What gives?

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 07, 2019 at 11:05 am
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I don't think there is anything extraordinary going on. It's more the reality for a program that has been down for a number of years. When the margin for error is so thin, like it is at Illinois, every transaction becomes magnified. I think that is what you are feeling.

At Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State, when they lose a player, they move on to the next guy desperate to play with the elite.

Will Illinois ever get to that status? Your gut instinct is to say "No." But there are examples of programs that came from nowhere to become significant. Miami comes to mind off the top.

It's trickier in the Big Ten. Who can Illinois pass in the West? Maybe Minnesota. But it seems to behind the rest in terms of current roster and recent success.

I think for Illinois to turn the corner, it has to be incremental. Win six games one season, seven the next, eight the year after that. Build toward the top.

A winning season will help convince the top players to consider Illinois.

I have some Illinois facilities questions. Anonymous User wrote on May 07, 2019 at 11:05 am

What do you think of the transfer QB the Illini got in Matt Fink?  Do you expect even with him that the freshman QB will be given the chance to start? Also recruiting as a whole has gone quiet except for the decommitment of Harper. With the coaches out on the road recruiting, (I am assuming they still can do that), do you expect any commitments soon? Do you think the Illini are going after a higher rated recruit this time around,and are being more picky? Are we just waiting for some preferred guys to make up their  minds or what? Some Big Ten schools have 8-10 commits, while some have 2-3. What do you think will happen, commitments sooner or later? Thanks for the chats as always!

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 07, 2019 at 12:05 pm
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I don't think Rod Smith would have considered Matt Fink unless the player fits the style of offense Illinois plans to run. He is a good runner and an accurate passer. The passing part was a problem for the Illini in 2018.

I think it is possible Fink will grab control early in camp and allow Illinois to take its time with Williams. That woud be the best-case scenario.

I know the coaches are on the road recruiting because I heard from a couple of them this week and they weren't in town.

I think you will see a few commitments within the next month. I don't think the coaches are in a rush to fill up the class. It's not going to be 25 players, so they can be selective.

Illinois is definitely in on more high-level players, especially in the region. Chicago and St. Louis are going to be important. So is Georgia, Florida and Texas.

I never get too worried about a team having a low number of recruits at this time. If there are two in November, then feel free to panic.


Bob Asmussen wrote on May 07, 2019 at 12:05 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

Have a great week everybody.