Differing opinions on UI football staff shakeup

Watch Bob Asmussen's video interview with UI quarterback recruit Nathan Scheelhaase here.

On Dec. 8, Mike Locksley left the Illinois staff to become head coach at New Mexico. On Jan. 6, Eric Wolford left Illinois for more money as South Carolina offensive line coach.

Did the moves cost the Illini recruits in the 2009 class? Depends on who you ask.

Some recruiting experts say the damage was minimal. If any.

"They didn't see any major defections," said Jeremy Crabtree, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "I think enough people believe in the program and believe in Coach (Ron) Zook that they know that the program is on solid footing and he's going to do a good enough job no matter who his assistant coaches are. They did survive and weather the storm."

"It really has not affected, in our opinion, this class negatively as a whole," said Tom Luginbill, national director of recruiting for ESPN Scouts Inc.

Others aren't so sure. They wonder who might have come aboard if Locksley had stayed on the staff. Or if the school had retained Wolford.

"The three best recruiters on that staff were Locksley, Wolford and Reggie Mitchell," said Bob Lichtenfels, a Pennsylvania-based recruiting expert for Scout.com. "When you lose two of those guys, obviously it's going to hurt you. Where it hurts the most is with the bigger guys who they were in the process with late. Once those guys leave, it's kind of a no-brainer that they're probably not going to land a guy they were recruiting."

Lichtenfels points to the Cleveland Glenville offensive lineman Marcus Hall, considered among the top players in the country. Hall, who was being recruited by Wolford, had Illinois on his list of potential schools.

"When it comes down to crunch time, Illinois was in the game," Lichtenfels said. "What's the odds that he picks Illinois now that Wolford's gone. It would have been tough to land him either way."

Crabtree wonders if Wolford got enough credit at Illinois.

"He's one of the more underappreciated recruiters in the country," Crabtree said. "It will be interesting to see how he does in South Carolina."

The timing of the changes wasn't good.

"When you lose them during the heat of recruiting, which is December and January, you're in big trouble," national recruiting expert Tom Lemming said. "Especially, losing their best recruiter, Locksley."

"When you're dealing with a coach for the better part of two years and building a relationship, it makes it kind of hard when the guy leaves and you're stuck trying to talk to someone else," Lichtenfels said. "I don't know that you can replace Wolford and Locksley in a year. Wolford was establishing himself as one of the best out-of-state guys recruiting Ohio."

Some of the players in the Illinois class opened their recruitment. But when Illinois hired Mike Schultz as offensive coordinator, Keith Gilmore as defensive line coach and Joe Gilbert to work with the offensive line, some of the concerns eased.

"A lot of the kids started looking around and taking visits other places and at least exploring options," said Allen Trieu, a Michigan-based recruiting expert for Scout.com. "They've done a good job since of corraling everybody back in. They haven't lost any kids as a result. They easily could have. The two kids that come to mind are the Chicago Leo kids (Lendell Buckner and Leon Hill). They took visits elsewhere. The new guys came in, talked to them and they're reconfirmed."

Luginbill said the players need to become less tied to the recruiting coach.

"If the players are signing or commiting because of one coach, they are commiting for the wrong thing or signing for the wrong thing," said Luginbill, who played college football and is the son of a coach. "The likelihood of that coach or the coordinator, or the head coach for that matter, being there over the course of four or five years is slim and none. There's got to be more there. That's why when you see departures from staffs, you don't see a mass exodus of players as well. There's more that's been commited to than just one individual guy."

STAFF STUFF
Ron Zook is entering his fifth season as Illinois coach. Here are the assistants who have worked with him:

2005
Mike Locksley    Offensive coordinator/tight ends
Mike Mallory    Defensive coordinator/middle linebackers
Reggie Mitchell    Assistant head coach/running backs/recruiting
Dino Dawson    Wide receivers
Dan Disch    Special teams/outside linebackers
Curt Mallory    Secondary
Tom Sims    Defensive line
Ed Warinner    Run game coordinator/offensive line
Ed Zaunbrecher    Passing game coordinator/quarterbacks

2006
Mike Locksley    Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Vince Okruch    Defensive coordinator
Reggie Mitchell    Assistant head coach/running backs/recruiting
Dino Dawson    Wide receivers
Dan Disch    Special teams/linebackers
Curt Mallory    Secondary
Jim Pry    Tight ends
Tom Sims    Defensive line
Ed Warinner    Run game coordinator/offensive line

2007
Mike Locksley    Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Dan Disch    Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers
Curt Mallory    Co-defensive coordinator/secondary
Reggie Mitchell    Assistant head coach/running backs/recruiting
Kurt Beathard    Outside receivers
Jim Pry    Inside receivers
Tom Sims    Defensive line
Eric Wolford    Run game coordinator/offensive line
Mike Woodford    Special teams coordinator

2008
Mike Locksley    Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Dan Disch    Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers
Curt Mallory    Co-defensive coordinator/secondary
Reggie Mitchell    Assistant head coach/running backs/recruiting
Kurt Beathard    Outside receivers
Jim Pry    Inside receivers
Tom Sims    Defensive line
Eric Wolford    Run game coordinator/offensive line
Mike Woodford    Special teams coordinator

2009
Mike Schultz    Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Dan Disch    Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers
Curt Mallory    Co-defensive coordinator/secondary
Reggie Mitchell    Assistant head coach/running backs/recruiting
Kurt Beathard    Outside receivers
Joe Gilbert    Offensive line
Keith Gilmore    Defensive line
Jim Pry    Inside receivers
Mike Woodford    Special teams coordinator

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

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