Schultz finding his way around
Barring a last-minute change, Mike Schultz will be moving into Eric Wolford's old house in June. But for now, the Illinois offensive coordinator's home is in Texas.
On Friday, he was in Austin. He planned to spend the weekend in Fort Worth. Then, back out again.
Between now and May 31, Schultz will be visiting Texas high schools that haven't seen anybody from Illinois in years.
"I will get to about six high schools a day," Schultz said. "Out of those six, there will always be three or four that are practicing that afternoon. I walk out there with Illinois on my chest. I want them to know the University of Illinois is here."
The last Illini coach to seriously recruit Texas was John Mackovic, who had good success in the state in the late 1980s and early '90s. Ken Blackman, Chris Richardson and Scott Turner were major contributors at Illinois.
When Mackovic left for Texas, the mini-pipeline to the state dried up. The last Texan to sign with Illinois was Billy Garza in 2004.
Each coaching hire brings the potential for a new recruiting area. With Schultz, that area is Texas.
He served for 11 years on the staff at TCU. The Houston native also worked at Texas, UTEP, Southwest Texas and Sam Houston State. And he was an assistant coach at Round Rock Westwood High School.
Schultz knows the coaches in the state and where to find the best players. The next move is gauging interest in Illinois.
"You're starting to see kids go a little bit more out of state in this state," Schultz said. "You look even through the Big Ten. Wisconsin has gotten kids out of Texas. Minnesota has gotten kids out of Texas. Of course, Ohio State and Michigan have always gotten kids out of Texas. Those kids have a pretty good grip of what's going on with the Big Ten."
Schultz is in his fifth month on Ron Zook's staff. He has been through winter conditioning and spring practices. Now, he is on the road recruiting.
"I feel pretty good coming out of spring," Schultz said.
Schultz made the adjustment to the offense, learning the Illinois terminology rather than implementing his own.
Going into his first season, one offensive goal is the same as at every other stop: Hold onto the ball.
"We had too many turnovers last year," Schultz said. "Everybody talks about Xs and Os and schemes and things like that. One of the big things we talked about was just taking care of the football. Therefore, you don't put your defense out there on a short porch."
Schultz and the players continue to get to know each other.
"I think the kids came in with an acceptance of me," Schultz said. "I went in and did what I normally do. And I thought the kids embraced that."
Schultz has spent his life in the Southwest. The Midwest is a new experience for Schultz and his wife, Cindy. One of their first stops was Arthur.
"That's the first time I've seen some of stuff, the way the Amish live," Schultz said. "I found that it was fascinating. It was absolutely a great time."
The Schultzes are talking about summer trips to nearby cities. They'll go to St. Louis and Chicago and visit landmarks they haven't seen before.
"I think my wife would like to go back and explore Michigan Avenue again," Schultz said. "I don't know how fired up I am about it."
The Schultzes still own their home in Fort Worth. They plan to rent it out this year and then sell it after the 2009 season.
Schultz will likely rent the former home of Illinois offensive line coach Wolford, who is now at South Carolina.
"I know Eric and I think he feels pretty good about the renters coming in," Schultz said. "I'll treat it like it's mine. That's what I'd expect him to do if it was the other way around."
There's still a chance Wolford will sell his house. Will the Schultzes go live in Zook's basement?
"I'm an offensive coordinator, I've got a contingency plan," Schultz said.
In four months, Schultz has learned his way around Champaign-Urbana.
"As long as you know those main roads, you can get where you need to in Champaign pretty easily," Schultz said.
Best of Texas
Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Schultz is using his connections to try to bring Texans to Champaign-Urbana. Here are the five from the state who had success at Illinois:
PLAYER HOMETOWN COMMENT
Ken Blackman Abilene Offensive lineman was a first-day NFL draft pick by Cincinnati
Gabriel de la Garza Dallas Linebacker earned second-team All-Big Ten honors for Mike White in 1987
Cam Pepper Victoria Two-year starter at right guard helped Illini earned consecutive Jan. 1 bowl bids
Chris Richardson Richardson Four-year starting kicker remains third on the school’s career scoring list
Scott Turner Richardson Move from receiver to cornerback paid off with eight-year NFL career