UFR: Missed opportunity

UFR: Missed opportunity

Paul Klee's read on Saturdays loss at Wisconsin:

First Impressions

— Why did this one hurt? Wisconsin is utterly beatable. This isn’t a classic Badgers squad that pounds the spirit out of an opponent. All four of Wisconsin’s touchdown drives consumed less than 3 minutes. No 14-play drives here. What the Illini needed was something good to happen, and it seemed they found it when Steve Hull intercepted a pass that led to their first touchdown. But when something bad happens — and the fourth quarter was an avalanche of bad — shoulders slump and the snowball effect kicks in. These Illini are in need of A) a lucky break B) a bye week. Neither is on the horizon.

— When the local meteorologist forecasts the weather wearing a Badgers jersey, you know the city stands firmly behind the program. Despite an ominous start to the season, Wisconsin football still is the hottest ticket. State Street bars were packed and vendors on Regent were hoppin’. The student section — massive in comparison to the Block I — left only 19 rows of the west stands unfilled. The atmosphere on game day is what Illinois football dreams of. And while the Illini program seems to operate in constant survival mode, Badgers coach Bret Bielema sauntered around pregame warmups sipping on a cup of coffee, chillin’ out.

— The concern going forward must be the state of the Illinois locker room. The midway point seems awfully early for a players-only meeting, but that’s what took place inside the team hotel Friday night. “We can’t dwell on the bad stuff,” Ryan Lankford said. This Illini defense features a handful of NFL prospects. At the end of the Ron Zook era, coaches privately wondered if some prospects were playing for their draft stock instead of playing within the system. One of Tim Beckman’s biggest challenges will be keeping the locker room together when the Illini could be favored in only two games the rest of the way (Indiana, Minnesota).

Second Guessing

— The second guessing won’t come from this scribe. “I think we need to open up the playbook,” running back Donovonn Young said, doing the dirty work for us. Whether the sophomore is right or wrong, that isn’t our place to decide. But it’s certain the tailbacks would prefer to hear their names more often. Young, who runs angry, a great quality in a tailback, glanced at the stat sheet and made note of his line — four rushes, 6 yards — as if to say the running game can’t flourish if it isn’t used. For players not named Nathan Scheelhaase, the running game was almost non-existent — 12 rushing attempts for 24 yards, a meager average of 2 yards per carry.

— In terms of public sentiment, Beckman is entering Bruce Weber Circa 2010-12 territory. Relevant or inconsequential, the coach’s every move is being nit-picked. It is unfair for a first-year coach that has limited depth on his roster, but that’s where we are. Weber was under a microscope for most of his final three seasons at Illinois. The unfortunate spotlight has found Beckman in his first. As Weber learned late in his tenure, it’s difficult to reclaim the faith of a fandom. It will be even harder for Beckman, who won’t have a promising first season to lean back on.

— Love you, Madison. Love your restaurants and your fly fishing and your spirit. Like Boulder or Berkeley, you let us know where you stand, even if we’re not in agreement. In that way, Saturday’s downtown protest wasn’t a surprise; a few dozen sign-waving, peace-sign-flashing, chanting locals marched through State Street and no one blushed. The second guessing part? At least two of the signs denounced Barack Obama. Another called Mitt Romney a bad name. We do need one of them to earn the presidency, correct?

Third Degree

— Glancing over the remaining schedule, Indiana’s visit to Illinois on Oct. 27 appears to be the best chance for an Illini win. And it is. But the Hoosiers are better than the Illini right now and showed it again Saturday despite a 31-27 loss to Michigan State. It marked the second straight week Indiana was competitive. Recent history suggests Indiana isn’t a pushover for first-year coaches. Ron Turner and Ron Zook lost to the Hoosiers in their first seasons.

— Wisconsin’s Joel Stave is a pocket passer that wins with his arm. And it’s a lively arm that has produced three games of 200-plus yards passing in three games. On Saturday at Michigan, Illinois faces a much different dynamic at quarterback. Denard Robinson was listed as the fifth-best prospect on Todd McShay’s draft board — as a wide receiver. Robinson wins with his legs. “We’re going to have to come with a different game plan to stop him from doing what he does best, which is getting out of the pocket and running,” defensive end Michael Buchanan said. Prior to a shaky start, Michigan was billed to be a top-10 team and looked the part in a 44-13 win at Purdue.

In the Stadium

— Oakland Raiders defensive end Matt Shaughnessy participated in the pregame coin toss as an honorary captain for the Badgers. Shaughnessy was a third-round pick in 2009.

— Illinois basketball recruiting interest Malek Harris, a 2014 prospect from Sandburg, was at Camp Randall on an unofficial visit.

— NFL scouts included reps from the Bears, Chiefs, Giants, Jaguars and Seahawks.

— Bo Ryan’s Badgers were introduced during the football game and fired up the student section by dancing to “Gangnam Style.” (Former Badger Joe Krabbenhoft once noted Ryan appreciates a wide range of music and once pulled up to the arena listening to Nelly.) The basketball Badgers have a hefty nonleague schedule with challenges against Florida, Virginia, Creighton, Cal, Marquette and either Arizona State or Arkansas.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

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RonZookIsMyCoach wrote on October 07, 2012 at 8:10 am

" In terms of public sentiment, Beckman is entering Bruce Weber Circa 2010-12 territory. Relevant or inconsequential, the coach’s every move is being nit-picked. It is unfair for a first-year coach that has limited depth on his roster, but that’s where we are."

How in the world can you make that statement. He has a roster that has won BACK-TO-BACK Bowl games. He has multiple players on defense that will be playing on Sundays. Don't try and sugar coat it. Beckman was Mike Thomas's FIFTH choice as a coach. He is truely not a head coach at a BCS school. The only reason his roster has depth issues is because like most first year coaches, if a coach doesn't like a player he gets rid of them no questions asked because they aren't "his guys." As the season progresses mark my words he will start playing "his guys," meaning his recruits so that they get "game experience." He will then lose the rest of the football team and that will cause the locker room to be divided.

Lipstick on a pig is still a pig, and that pig is Tim Beckman...



eugene wrote on October 07, 2012 at 8:10 am

zookismycoach, really???? depth was an issue the last 2 years. zooks recruiting fell way down when the rumors of his possible termination. the reason zooks last 2 team didnt win more is because of lack of depth. many games were lost down the stretch of the last 2 seasons because the starters were playing too many downs. yes, this team won 2 bowl games, but the cupboard was not overflowing when beckman arrived. just enough to get by. had zook and his entire staff been around this year our record would be the same, the final scores closer with vic calling the defense, but the offense would not be different. very little experience on the o-line. with o-line issues, it doesn't matter who the qbs, rbs and wrs are, they will struggle. 

RonZookIsMyCoach wrote on October 07, 2012 at 9:10 am

What games down the stretch are you referring too, the ones I remember at least last season. Come back versus Arizona State, Western Michigan, Northwestern, and UCLA. Hmmm, four games that we won but yet lost down the stretch because of depth...

LarsonRobert wrote on October 09, 2012 at 4:10 am
Profile Picture

Oh yes how could we forget that we won 4 game but still we loss. The tournament has given some bitter memories which I guess no one would ever forget. Anyways better luck next time.

rug pads for hardwood floors

peterborich wrote on October 07, 2012 at 11:10 am

Spot on, Eugene

peterborich wrote on October 07, 2012 at 9:10 am

Hey RonZookisYourCoach....No Offensive Line, No Wide Receivers, No Secondary, No Special Team Players, No Depth = RonZookLeftThisProgramAMess.   Light another candle tonight in your Zooker Shrine and continue to pretend that an 0-6 finish in the Big Ten last year meant that Ron Zook would be 2-0 in the Big Ten this year.  The Zooker could not coach, and, in the end, could not recruit.

Illini Drumline Guy wrote on October 07, 2012 at 11:10 am

I am really tired of hearing about "back to back bowl wins"....while it is true.....the Illini were so low in the Big Ten standings that the bowl games ended up against...first a 6-6 Baylor team, and second, playing a below .500 6-7 UCLA team that was blown out 50-0 in their last game...its not like the 2 wins were against Florida, or Texas....the jury is still out on Beckman, as much as we all hate waiting, you have to give him a couple of recruitng classes to see what he does...Zook had several years, and did nothing with the program...even with 2007, he averaged slightly above 2 Big Ten wins a year and finished at or near the bottom every year but one....that is not getting it done. come back wins over Western Michigan and Northwestern should not be the defining moments of a season if we expect to be highly competitive in the Big 10. The buzz will return to the stadium when we get several 5-3 Big Ten seasons back to back and win a higher ranked bowl game or two.

RonZookIsMyCoach wrote on October 07, 2012 at 4:10 pm

You are tired of hearing it fine. But the fact is Drumline is that it has NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE IN THE HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL!!!!! That tells you everything you need to know about the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The only shot you have at a successful program is sticking with a coach, the fact is you can't. And good luck getting high profile recruits to come. Your only pitch is we are 2 hours from Chicago, 3 from St. Louis and 1 and a half hours from Indianapolis. You know what that tells me... YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF NO WHERE!! So let's see middle of no where, can't win, and my coach that recruits me won't see me graduate, yeah sign me right up!!

RonZookIsMyCoach wrote on October 07, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Pete, left it a mess. Really.... The only mess I see is the one Beckman and his staff are making on the sidelines every Saturday. You have a defensive minded coach in Beckman that last year gave up 30 points per game in the MAC, and is doing it again with a defense that was ranked in the top 10 last year. The only players missing from that defense are Whitney and Tavon Wilson. You mean to tell me that those two single handily kept teams from scoring that many points. Give me a break. Enjoy losing for the next decade, and being a factor in the national championship race never. Well not never i will let you count your dreams...

peterborich wrote on October 07, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Defense last three regular season games last season:

31 to Michigan at home.

28 to Wisconsin at home (including 21 2nd Half Points)

27 to Godawful Minnesota team

Just a sign of things to come in 2012.....


peterborich wrote on October 08, 2012 at 7:10 am

Lookee Here . .RonZookIsMyCoach . . . .  .



Some unrealistic and shortsighted Illinois football fans are calling for first-year coach Tim Beckman's ouster, arguing that he isn't equipped to build a competitive team in the Big Ten.

But longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network cautions Illini fans to be patient, that it will take at least two or three years to recruit the caliber of talent necessary to produce a winning program.

"Beckman and his staff are doing all they can," Lemming said. "But they are paying the price for the last two years of Ron Zook's bad recruiting. Remember, Illinois ranked 12th in the Big Ten two years ago and 11th last year. It will take a while. Fans have to be patient.

"The staff is hard working, aggressive and personable. But there is a lack of talent on the roster. Illinois needs athletes. They need playmakers and difference-makers on both sides of the ball. On defense, they have no speed to the ball."

Lemming said Illinois desperately needs more Aaron Baileys. Bailey, who quarterbacked Bolingbrook to the Class 8A championship last year, is committed to Illinois. He is a dual threat quarterback with the speed and athleticism that Illinois lacks in its option offense this season.

"They need a Laquon Treadwell, who could be a difference-maker at wide receiver," said Lemming, referring to the uncommitted Crete-Monee star who ranks among the top two or three prospects at his position in the country."

Lemming said Peoria Richwoods running back Kendrick Foster, who is committed to Illinois, could be the biggest surprise in the incoming recruiting class. But Illinois needs help at tight end and is looking for depth in the offensive line and playmakers everywhere on defense.

But will Beckman and his staff be given enough time to do what has to be done? Some crazed members of Illini Nation are calling for Beckman to be fired after this season, insisting that athletic director Mike Thomas made a big mistake in picking Beckman as his first major hire.

"He (Thomas) has no choice," Lemming said. "They have to give him (Beckman) four years if they want a winner. If they get rid of him after two or three years, who would want to take the job? He could turn the program around in four years."

In the meantime, Beckman and his staff continue to recruit Illinois and Ohio and the St. Louis area in an aggressive manner.

Illinois has offered some of the leading underclass prospects in the Midwest, including cornerback Parrker Westphal of Bolingbrook, tight end Nic Weishar of Marist, 6-foot-4, 215-pound tight end Daniel Helm of Chatham Glenwood, 6-foot-6, 280-pound offensive tackle Kyle Trout of Lancaster, Ohio, 5-foot-10, 207-pound, 6-foot-6, 225-pound tight end Ethan Wolf of Minster, Ohio, and running back Markel Smith of Vianney High School in
Kirkwood, Missouri.

They were among 25 of the top prospects in Illinois, Ohio and the St. Louis area who met with Lemming prior to the Illinois/Penn State game in Champaign.

Two sophomores to watch are 5-foot-11, 190-pound running back Dre Brown of De Kalb and 5-foot-9, 175-pound running back Dyrrah Christion of Kankakee. Brown is averaging more than nine yards per carry for a 1-6 team.

Two other Chicago area products who are impressing college recruiters are 6-foot-4, 295-pound junior tackle Logan Plantz of Providence, whose father played at Gordon Tech and Notre Dame, and 6-foot-9, 295-pound junior tackle Denzel Ward of Hales Franciscan.

Again, Lemming cautioned, the key word in Ward's recruiting is patience. He once aspired to be a basketball player, then changed his mind. This is his first year of football. He is a cousin to football stars Jordan Diamond, Robert Gregory and Jeff Allen is related to basketball star Jabari Parker. His mother played basketball at Auburn.

"He has unlimited potential," Lemming said. "He could weigh 330 pounds and look thin. He is a good athlete but he is raw."

Ward was ruled eligible after transferring from Julian. His football resume amounts to four games. Hales Franciscan coach Randall Townsel said Michigan is probably the only school that has evaluated his film. Ward was offered a scholarship by Purdue after attending a camp. Illinois also has expressed interest.

"Michigan has been to our school and watched film," Townsel said. "They are very impressed. They have invited Denzel to attend a football game at Michigan."

Three other players of note are 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior defensive end Jonathan Bonner of Parkway Central High School in St. Louis, 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior wide receiver/defensive back Ray Wingo of St. Louis University High in St. Louis and 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior linebacker Gelen Robinson of Lake Central High School in St. John, Indiana.

Robinson is the son of former Purdue and NBA star Glenn Robinson. His brother plays basketball at Michigan. Bonner's father played at Kansas and his uncle played at Notre Dame. His cousin, former Proviso East star Sergio Brown, played at Notre Dame and currently plays for the Indianapolis Colts. Wingo has an offer from Arkansas.

Tags: Big Ten, Illini, University of Illinois, Tom Lemming, Tim Beckman

RonZookIsMyCoach wrote on October 08, 2012 at 10:10 am

You are right; when Tom Lemming speaks it is gospel. Give me a break. This team is still the same team Zook had a year ago. Plain and simple. The facts are that Beckman is not putting his players in situations to be successful, period. When you try and run someone else's defense (Vic's) without the proper knowledge of how it is run it’s a disaster waiting to happen. When try and play with a fast pace offense knowing your defense can’t catch its breath on the sideline again recipe for disaster.

To sit there and place blame on someone who isn’t there anymore is gutless. Beckman has spent tons of money trying to make everything in that facility “his.” And he has every right too, its his program. But trying to draw attention away from the fact that he and his staff are out matched week in and week out is gutless.  Beckman’s record before he got to Illinois, against NON-MAC schools who were FBS programs was 3-9 in three years. So what does that show you his record will be this year. He is not playing the MAC anymore and he hasn’t realized it yet.

I’m not saying Zook was perfect, but the facts are that he did things that your program never had happen before in the history of the school. Yes some good and some bad. But when you only have two national coaches of the year in your schools history, when he is one of them, and to place blame on him is again gutless. Zook left this program in MUCH better same and when he got it from Turner. I truly believe that had he been given the financial backing like Beckman is getting now, he would have been more successful.

Moonpie wrote on October 07, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Klee Klub trots out right-wing politics in a football column. He disses Madison because people there think progressively instead of like its the gilded age of the 1800s? I had to check again to see if I was instead reading Obi Wan Tate instead of Klee.

And please, no more bragging about being a fly fisherman. Is the column about the team, or Klee and his conservative ego? That's as bad as Bob and his RAV4.

Finally, he disses the Madison weather guy for supporting the team? Goodness--that from a Sleepy Gazoo that is a shameless cheerelading squad. 

Oh, and, Illinois played a game--but that tends to get lost in all the posturing.

Illini Drumline Guy wrote on October 07, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Hey Zooker.....big time recruits can come to Ilinois....Mike White recruited FOUR first round draft picks to Illinois in the 80s ...IN A ROW...Dave WIlson, Tony Eason, Jack Tredeau, and Jeff George....so it can happen...oddly enough 70,000 packed the stadium each game with 5 seasons of sell outs...so, it can happen....you just need the right guy....

I will agree with you that what is going on now is a mess, and has the potential to really get bad....however, lets remember that this team ended up 0-6 in the Big Ten....early in the year  2011 our passing offense consisted of Jenkins on the drag route short across the middle with YAC....once the opponents took that away....oops!...there went to offense...and also remember the 20-14 bowl win over a bac UCLA team with the Illini offense producing 13 points...the program needed a change...just like the BB team.

I agree with you that getting that right guy is key and Thomas may have wiffed this time.


Maybe we need a new marketing slogan..."The 80s belong to the Illini" had a nice ring to it...and several exciting seasons for football and BB...the 90s?  can't eveb remember...2000s? ugh...nothing comes to mind...maybe "Our team our state" will catch on.

jjohnson wrote on October 08, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Probably too late to join this, but . . . Zook's recruiting probably tailed off for 2 reasons, one being, as I have said before by pointing out what happened in Lou Henson's last year, the short time left on his contract. I am not criticizing Guenther for not extending it further, Guenther was planning to retire earlier than he did and probably wanted his successor to have the opportunity to name his own coach, thus the short, 2 year, extension at a time when even someone like me, who felt that as much as I liked Zook, firing him at end of 2009 would have made sense. The result indeed was that while some very good athletes -- Jon Davis, Ferguson, O'Toole, Young, Milines -- joined during Zook's extension, he did not get offensive and defensive linemen (d-backs, I don't know). 

While I think Beckman made a big mistake in not keeping Koenig, the O-Line with the injuries has been a massive problem. Put your binoculars on the line and watch. Had to watch Saturday's on TV recorded (still haven't watched 4th qtr); noted that when Thornton went in at left tackle and Pocic moved to center, pass blocking at least looked much better.

I agree that Scheelhaase has some real shortcomings, they showed last year, but suspect that given the O-Line issues, the coaching staff is afraid that his running is the only hope.

It looks pretty bad now, I agree, but not so bad as when White arrived and Turner arrived and when Zook arrived. For those reflecting on White, remember that some of those juco's proved to be really difficult issues, and that White's teams post 1983 largely flopped, and if memory is correct, he was not the one who brought Rick George -- or at least, George never played for him. Verdusco was his last QB, I believe.

Bottom line: there is no hope in change -- that is, in changing coaches now; we have to give Beckman at least 4 years.

Illini Drumline Guy wrote on October 09, 2012 at 3:10 pm

jjohnson....White did bring in Wilson, Eason, Trudeau, Jeff George and Verduzco....George had to redshirt as a transfer from Purdue in 1987.....all 5 QBs with Mike White...The best QB since those guys I guess is Johnny Johnson in 1993...brought in by Landry/Tepper...also Chris Redman...oops....Tepper let him out of his signed schloarship and since that monent Illini football pretty dark...Kittner lone birght spot for a couple of years.

Illini Drumline Guy wrote on October 09, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Peter, thanks for sharing he Taylor Bell article...I have NO idea how accurate the recuiting comments are...but one thing for sure...you HAVE to give Beckman 3 years minumum if not 4 to run his own program. Any moves now would have any potential replacement coaching candidates running for the hills.....

lightenupfrancis wrote on October 09, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Redman was offered a scholarship but i don't think he ever sent in a letter of intent.  I seem to recall the plan being Landry becoming head coach and Redman's dad becoming an assistant, with sonny the cherry on top.  Tinker Bell also failed to mention that Ward was at illinois for their junior day during the PSU debacle,  Small wonder given his known dislike for the orange and blue.