Asmussen: The book on Banks

Asmussen: The book on Banks

He grew up in a Big Ten state (Michigan) and started his coaching career in another (Ohio).

After 15 years in the profession, Tim Banks is going to work at a Big Ten school.

"It's definitely awesome and I'm looking forward to the challenge," the new Illinois defensive coordinator said. "There's a lot of great tradition. I'm excited about it."

Banks, who helped rebuild the Cincinnati defense in two seasons as co-coordinator, joins a program that finished seventh in the nation in total defense.

He is starting to meet the returning players.

"Our goal is to win a Big Ten championship," Banks said. "We're going to focus on that and everything that comes with doing that. We're going to work hard and we're going to try to get the kids to play at our level and our standard."

Banks wasn't looking to leave Cincinnati. But he was happy to take the call from Tim Beckman, his one-time boss at Bowling Green.

"You're always flattered when someone wants you to be part of their program," Banks said. "But my family is extremely important to me (He has been married to wife Robin for 16 years). As excited as I was, I wanted to make sure my family was excited. And she was. She knows Coach Beckman and knows Kim, his wife. There was a comfort level there."

Banks thought it was an opportunity he couldn't turn down.

"I follow Big Ten football, so I understand the different coaches who have come through here and some of the successes they've had," Banks said. "I think the potential is here.

"I wouldn't have left for just any place."

Banks, who turned 40 in December, wants to someday be a head coach.

"That's definitely my plan," Banks said. "You work extremely hard to try to put yourself in a position for that opportunity."

His philosophy on defense isn't complicated.

"It starts with stopping the run," Banks said. "I know that may sound like coaching cliche, but at the end of the day, that's the reality of it. We've got to do a great job of making teams one-dimensional. If you are able to stop the run, it feeds into the toughness of your defense."

After that, he wants pressure on the quarterback. No matter what it takes, blitzing when necessary.

"Get him out of his comfort zone," Banks said.

Third-down defense is another priority. He wants the Illinois offense back on the field as soon as possible.

"If you build from those three core values, I think you've got a chance to be successful on defense," Banks said.

Of course, having talented players helps, too.

"Let's be honest, it still comes back to the kids," Banks said. "You show me a great coordinator and I'll probably show you some great players. Coach (Nick) Saban does a great job, but he's not playing with any Joe Blows."

Check them out

Illinois is planning a signing day event Feb. 1 at the Assembly Hall. Beckman and his staff will have meet and greet fans starting at 4:30 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., the program will start with the Illinois coaches talking about the incoming recruits. Highlight videos of the players will be shown.

The event is free. Parking will be available in the northwest and southwest Assembly Hall lots.

Spring cleaning

Illinois spring practice, which starts March 7, extends for six weeks. The players will take a week off during spring break.

With players scheduling their classes around expected morning practices, most of the workouts will be at night. The exceptions are two Saturday workouts, on March 10 (noon) and the spring game on April 14 (2 p.m.)

Other than the spring game, spring practices will be closed to the public.

Indy bound

Three former Illinois football players have been invited to the NFL combine in February, with a fourth certain to attend.

Offensive lineman Jeff Allen, receiver A.J. Jenkins and kicker Derek Dimke are on the initial list of senior invitees.

Defensive end Whitney Mercilus, who gave up his final season with the Illini, is also expected to be invited. Underclassmen aren't on the initial combine list, but can be added later. ranks Mercilus as the No. 2 defensive end prospect in the draft, behind Southern Cal's Nick Perry. Mercilus is a projected first-round pick.

Jenkins is the No. 15 receiver and projected as a fourth-round pick. Allen is listed No. 17 among the offensive tackles, with a sixth-round draft projection.

Dimke is 10th among the kickers. Tavon Wilson is rated No. 48 among the cornerbacks.

Bonus play

Jenkins was on the East roster for Saturday's East West Shrine Game at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Jenkins was one of three Big Ten players on the East roster, joining Penn State linebacker Nick Sukay and Michigan State receiver B.J. Cunningham. Iowa defensive back Shaun Prater and offensive lineman Markus Zusevics, Northwestern offensive lineman Al Netter and quarterback Dan Persa, Nebraska offensive lineman Marcel Jones, Wisconsin defensive back Aaron Henry and Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway and tight end Kevin Koger played for the West.

Landing spot

Former Illinois quarterback Chandler Whitmer is back in a BCS conference.

After spending the fall at Butler (Kan.) Community College, Whitmer enrolled at UConn for the spring semester.

He earned junior college All-American honorable mention, leading his team to an 11-1 record and throwing for 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Whitmer had offers from UConn, Memphis, Kent State and others. A redshirt at Illinois in 2010, he will have three years of eligibility with the Huskies. The school brought in another quarterback for the spring.

In the news

Former Illinois defensive coordinator Chris Cosh has left Kansas State to take the same job at South Florida. In almost three decades as a coach, Cosh has worked at Illinois, UNLV, Minnesota, Michigan State, South Carolina and Maryland. He has been a defensive coordinator for more than half his career, serving on Lou Tepper's staff at Illinois. Cosh replaces Mark Snyder, who left South Florida following the 2011 season to become defensive coordinator at Texas A&M. ... Congratulations to Lou Holtz, the only ESPN football analyst to go 5-0 on the BCS bowl picks. Dr. Lou knows his stuff. ... Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy won the Bear Bryant College Coach of the Year Award on Thursday. He beat eight other finalists, including Michigan's Brady Hoke and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema. Former Iowa coach Hayden Fry was given the Bryant Lifetime Achievement Award at ceremonies in Houston. ... Hoke has the Wolverines rolling on the field, going 11-2 his first season. Now, he's getting some help off the field. The school approved a $9 million renovation project for Schembechler Hall, the team's locker room and training facility. ... New Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis, who was the defensive line coach, is getting a $100,000 raise. His salary moves to $300,000, $75,000 less than Carl Pelini earned as defensive coordinator in 2011. Pelini is now the head coach at Florida Atlantic.

Spring ahead
Tim Beckman’s first spring session at Illinois starts March 7. Here is the schedule:
March 7    6 p.m.    
March 9    5:45 p.m.
March 10    Noon
March 12    6 p.m.
March 14    6 p.m.
March 16    5:45 p.m.
March 26    6 p.m.
March 28    6 p.m.
March 30    5:45 p.m.
April 2    6 p.m.
April 4    6 p.m.
April 6    5:45 p.m.
April 9    6 p.m.
April 11    6 p.m.
April 14     2 p.m. Spring game

Bob Asmussen covers college football for The News-Gazette. Reach him at or 217-351-5233.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports