May 14 Bob Asmussen chat

May 14 Bob Asmussen chat

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 11:00am

What will the loss of M.J. Rivers mean for the Illinois offense? Can Matt Fink lead the team back to the postseason? Who will be the next player to commit for the 2020 class?

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 14, 2019 at 11:05 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 week. It is a busy time in the Illinois athletic department, with golf, softball and baseball teams still going strong.

Time seems to fly by. Before too long, we will be talking college football. I can't wait.

Illinois football continues to pursue a graduate transfer quarterback. It looked like Matt Fink was locked up. Not sure what is going on there. I hope we hear something soon.

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


Eric H wrote on May 14, 2019 at 11:05 am

What is your take on all of the transfers in and out of the Illinois football program? Is it a new generation of kids who want to play immediately and don’t feel like waiting their turn or is there a broader locker room or coaching staff issue?

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2019 at 11:05 am
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Eric H,

Everybody wants to play immediately. It has been that way in the 30 years I have covered Illinois sports and it was that way well before that.

I don't think that is unique at Illinois, But what you might be seeing is guys are unwilling to wait when the program isn't winning. Why sit at a place that hasn't been to a bowl since 2014?

If the program makes a turn, I promise you will see fewer transfers.

Another part of the equation is whether or not some of the players have been pushed out. Generally, the guys aren't going to say "I was told to go." At times, it isn't as simple as a player pursuing a better opportunity. Again, it is nothing new to college sports in general and college football in particular.




Scott Walsh wrote on May 14, 2019 at 11:05 am

Hey Bob,  Got any pull on where the Illini will play in the bb  regionals?  Check out Miss.St.  They have an unbelievable facility now, look up Dudy Noble Stadium.  Get them down to Starkville,you would love it down here.   Last d1 baseball shows us in Athens, Ga. See what you can do.

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2019 at 11:05 am
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Scott Walsh,



Great to hear from you. And of course I have no pull at all.

Personally, I would like to see Illinois host, but it needs to do some work to make that happen. In the latest power ratings, Illinois is about five spots out of the Top 16. Finish strong this weekend and do some damage at the Big Ten tournament and a move up is possible.

It has to help that the Big Ten is again having a good season. I think you will see a bunch of teams from the conference make the NCAA tournament.

Illinois has been to Starkville. I have heard good things. Strictly from an easy to get to standpoint, Louisville would be my next choice if the team doesn't host.

I am planning to go to the first day of the College World Series. It would be a lot of fun to see Illinois make it too.



mustwhiz1 wrote on May 14, 2019 at 11:05 am

Bob: The loss of Rivers in my opinion isn't that significant. It could affect our win total this year but not earth shaking for the long run. It appears that overall we have a better recruiting staff that has upped the energy level if nothing else. We continue to go forward and then back with our recruiting. It's rather hard to get too excited until we solve the QB problem. I'm convinced that we will stuggle to recruit WR until they are convinced that we have a QB that can get them the ball consistently. We have some of the most resilient fans in all of sports. Thx for your insight! 

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2019 at 11:05 am
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You make a bunch of great points.

After talking to Terrence Curry last week, I am convinced the best way for Illinois to go this season is to pick Isaiah Williams as the starter early and see what happens. The first three games are very winnable no matter who is the quarterback. If Williams is on the field from the start, he will will have a chance to be ready for the difficult Big Ten schedule that follows. He will be able to learn under fire and he will get better. It's the same approach that Nebraska took last season with Adrian Martinez. Now, he is being talked about as a Heisman candidate.

A good quarterback, especially one who is a threat with his legs, will make the receivers a lot better. And I believe Williams has a strong enough arm to make it work.Even as a freshman.

I can't wait to see how it plays out.


mustwhiz1 wrote on May 14, 2019 at 11:05 am

Bob: Do you ever talk to the fellow that does the Legends, List, and Lore column? He has some very interesting articles about people and things that happened in the "dark ages". I wonder how he extracts those stories and where he gets them from. When I see the former students' birthdays It's also a reminder of how old I am getting! 

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2019 at 11:05 am
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I have known Mike Pearson for 30 years and he has been an invaluable resource. He has written the book on Illinois sports with multiple editions. Whenever  I have a historic question related to the Illinois athletic department, I go to Mike. And he also has a great insight into the Big Ten as well.

The best part is he willing to help and share his knowledge. And you are right, he comes up with a lot of great items.

I would say to not worry about aging. It definitely beats the alternative.

Panera Guy wrote on May 14, 2019 at 11:05 am


I'm sure you'll be getting this question a lot today, but what can you tell us about the status of Matt Fink and Tommy Stevens?

Fink says he hasn't committed, although it seemed like his father said he was. I hear he is open to returning to USC.

Stevens seems to be heading to Mississippi State, but hasn't stated anything publicly.

I get that these are 20 something year olds, but is the process just too much for them to handle? Maybe I'm old...okay, I know I'm old, so I'm sure it seems easier than it is. 

Perfect scenario, we get one of the transfers, Williams gets to play 3 games and redshirt, saving a year of eligibility. Likely scenario, we don't get a transfer and start the season with quarterback being out biggest question mark. Either way, we will have a team full of quarterbacks without any starting experience. Do you see that as the biggest area of concern for the Illini?

Thanks again for taking our questions, love the chats!

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2019 at 12:05 pm
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Panera Guy,


I agree with you that Tommy Stevens seems destined for Mississippi State. where he can work with his former offensive coordinator.

The Matt Fink case is different. A lot of people said he was coming to Illinois, including his dad. I'm not sure what happened there. We will find out soon, hopefully. If Fink decides to play for Illinois, it will help him and the program if he is here sooner rather than later.

If there are no grad transfers, I think the best plan for Ilinois will be to get Isaiah Williams ready and let him take over.

Quarterback is a concern because of the lack of depth and experience. But there is talent at the position. And I trust the coach, Rod Smith, who will lead them into the season. I trust Rod Smith will have his quarterbacks ready to go.


Illini Football Star wrote on May 14, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Bob -

Who do you see as the top 5 key 2020 football recruits who will have most influence of others joining them in this 2020 class? It is not necessarily 5 or 4 star players but ones that has great potential and be true leaders in the years ahead.


Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2019 at 12:05 pm
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Illini Football Star,


I like the way you are thinking. The best recruiting period during my time here came when Ron Zook wisely brought Juice Williams to the program. Juice was able to help Illinois draw other top players and before long, the team was in the Rose Bowl.

I think Isaiah Williams can definitely be that guy. My gues is he will have an impact on the class of 2020. He already has with the two commmits, including former Trinity teammate Reggie Love.

A couole others to watch include Trinity receiver Mookie Cooper and Lincoln-Way East receiver A.J. Henning. If those two decide to join the Illini, it will open up those areas to more possible commits.

This is a critical year for Lovie Smith on the field and in recruiting. If he can put together a bowl season and a Top 30 class, he will have turned the corner.

Bob Asmussen wrote on May 14, 2019 at 12:05 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 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 everybody.