Tate: Beckman hears the grumbling

Tate: Beckman hears the grumbling

Tim Beckman is caught in a dilemma.

The Illini football coach wants to be as positive as a 2-10 football season would permit, but a look at his depth chart tugs him in another direction.
Without Steve Hull, who’ll be sidelined (shoulder) this spring, the chart shows three safeties and three green cornerbacks. Also, the rover position has one name, and Michael Buchanan’s vacated end slot has two now that Houston Bates has been switched from linebacker.

With sixth-year returnee Corey Lewis appropriately discounted, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will be one of just four fifth-year seniors in 2013. And junior Akeem Spence, already completing his work toward graduation, is almost certain to turn pro, thus leaving another hole at defensive tackle.

Furthermore, the current freshman class, while offering immediate help at linebacker, is small and unimpressive by Big Ten standards.
As a result, Beckman and his staff are engaged in the biggest junior college push since the Mike White era in the early 1980s.

Changing it up

Beckman’s goal is to bring in as many as eight JC transfers.

“The way to push this program forward, and the way I’ve seen it done, is with people,” Beckman said Friday after returning from another of his recruiting trips.

“We have a lack of depth in our upper classes, and we need to get more quality players involved. There are opportunities for players on this team, and we have to surround them with new additions.

“We accumulated junior college transcripts and brought them in so the university could tell us the ones that they thought would be successful academically here. We’ve had a good response in this area.”

Defensive line help is coming from 305-pound Abens Cajuste and 245-pound Kyle Kragen, son of 13-year NFL standout Greg Kragen.

“Counting five early enrollees from high school, we could have between 10 and 13 new players here in January. That’s the most I’ve ever had.

Our depth issues demand that we bring in 10 to 13 players to join us immediately for spring practice,” he said.

“And we must continue to recruit the high school players who have already committed to us (they sign in February). I’m encouraged.”

He pointed to the UI’s ranking as No. 3 in Big Ten recruiting. According to Rivals.com, the Illini are behind Ohio State and Michigan, and in a virtual tie with Wisconsin for third. Not all recruiting services agree, of course.

Positive thinking

Like all coaches with losing records, Beckman and his staff are surrounded by background chatter and negativity.

“We have playing time to sell,” is Beckman’s counter. “Our senior class and our freshman class are thin. I’m out trying to find young men who want to be involved in a great institution. We can get this done if we get top recruits in here to build up depth and continuity.”

Beckman is thus far disappointed by efforts in the Chicago area. He has 11 in-state players among his 24 commitments thus far, but only four from the greater Chicago area.

“Every coach on our staff is involved in a section of the Chicago area,” he said. “We’re hitting areas hard that weren’t hit before. It takes time to build relationships.”

A week earlier, athletic director Mike Thomas made it clear Beckman would continue as coach after rumors abounded he might be replaced after one year. Thomas said a statement of that nature shouldn’t have been necessary.

Said Beckman: “The opportunity to be a head coach here was granted to me exactly a year ago. I had been 14-2 in the (MAC) conference with back-to-back bowl games. And I surrounded myself with coaches who had been in bowl games, one of them (LSU’s Billy Gonzales) in the national championship game.

“It’s ironic to think you lost your ability to coach football in 12 months. But people have the right to grumble. We were 2-10. No one wants to be 2-10. But I think there were certain factors involved in that.”

One of those factors was the injury list, which exacerbated Beckman’s depth problems.

“I mentioned back in the spring that we might have depth issues if injuries happened,” he said. “We lost 83 starts from guys who would have been starters for us. It began to accumulate on us.”

Thomas has said on several occasions that Dr. Robert Gurtler told him this was the most injuries he has seen in 29 years with the Illini football program.

‘The low point’

The UI nine-game losing streak hit bottom in the final 50-14 loss at Northwestern.

“That was the low point, walking off the field with no chance to practice any more or be on the field again with these seniors. We didn’t get it done,” Beckman said.

“I’m meeting individually with players now to discuss going forward. I just met with the juniors (Friday). I’ll do the sophomores Thursday and the freshmen Friday.”

Recruiting consumes his time early each week.

Beckman didn’t have many high points in 2012. He points back to the Western Michigan game.

“Coming off the field with that first victory was great, but also when (tackle) Corey Lewis came back after 21/2 years of struggling physically and mentally to return. That was huge.”

Beckman spoke openly throughout Friday’s half-hour chat. But not on the issue of his assistant coaches. He noted they are actively recruiting but wouldn’t comment whether all will return.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.


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Moonpie wrote on December 10, 2012 at 8:12 am

If Scheelhaase is the QB next year, it's over.

JohnUI82 wrote on December 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Throwing someone under the bus, Moonpie? You repeatedly criticize Tate for doing that (whether he does or not), yet it's OK for you to do it? Hypocrite.

coaxhdufus wrote on December 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm

@ moonpie  +1000



Hey Timbo the clow...it would be ironic if you lost the ability to coach in 12 months...seeing as you never had that ability...what a tool

Illini1973 wrote on December 10, 2012 at 9:12 am
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We could bring in 20 JUCOs (these are not same quality White brought in, more like Turner) and that won't make next season any better.  If you thought this season was rock bottom, you're in for a rude awakening.  Next year will make your blood boil.

calvin wrote on December 10, 2012 at 10:12 am

Our only hope is that some(we hope a lot) of the bad coaching this last season was due to the fact that the staff was concentrating on a monster(by our standards) recruiting year......not much to go on, I know, but we have to get quality and quantity in here fast.........this is the most threadbare team we've had since the 70's

tonyjb37 wrote on December 10, 2012 at 11:12 am
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This is not the MAC idiot! This is where the big boys come to win Championships, Beckman, you never knew how to coach and your overall record speaks for itself, stats dont lie! You had one or two good years at an irrelevant school in an irrelevant conference and thats it! And now you and the rest of Illini nation found out that you can't coach football. 2-10 record is a pretty good indication and it will be the same next year you have not given Illini nation any indication that it is going to be any different with your lack of being able to adapt and make changes during half time of games when we were already getting our butts kicked. set your pride aside admit that you are a failure and step down as head coach of this team give someone else a chance to come in here and get the job done, someone that knows how to coach football like a Jim Tressel or a Bobby Petrino and a few others that I could mention that are just head and shoulders above you as coaches.

jjohnson wrote on December 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Jim Tressel and Bobby Petrino; glad character doesn't matter to you, tonyjb37; why don't we then get Bruce Pearl for basketball?

What a useless rant; hope you feel better now.

JohnUI82 wrote on December 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Why don't you and the other critics send your coaching resumes to Thomas? I hear the job pays pretty well. Oh, and whether it's deserved or not, that irrelevant conference is sending a team to the Orange Bowl.

Dan Bloeme wrote on December 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I have it on good authority that Beckman isn't a coach at all but rather just a clown. I have never seen a more ridiculous oaf on the Illinois sidelines than this buffoon. Beckman is so inept, he couldn't coach his way out of a paper bag. One of worst in Illinois history.



















cretis16 wrote on December 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I.m with you...this coach would be best suited for POP WARNER. Next year is going to be a huge disaster. Why does Mr. Thomas insist on pushing the program even farther back. You have to be bold and aggressive to pull this plane out of it's death spiral. Call PETRINO, a good coach who needs to get right back into football ...this is the place to rebuild the Petrino brand and have a big potato guy at the helm. We're going nowhere with this high school plus coach, It's not fair to fans to punish us another year.....Make a move!!!!

walker wrote on December 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm

how can Nathan S look so good and promising under the Zook/Pitrino regimes and so bad this year ??

sffan wrote on December 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Give the guy a break. He came in with a bare cupboard. It will take any coach at least 4 years to straighten this out. Maybe Pettrino can bring his secretary along or maybe Tressel can open a tatoo parlor. It takes a lot longer to turn a football program around than a basketball program. Everyone thinks Groce is the best thing since sliced bread but what big time conference did he coach last year. If Beckman hasnt turned it around in 2 or 3 years then its time to start looking. But with our fans who would want to coach here. Sumlin saw what kind of talent was left here and I am sure that was a big reason he turned the job down. Did people actually think that a team that lost its last 6 games the year before was going to win big this year?

tonyjb37 wrote on December 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm
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Western Kentucky, just got better than we are! Virtually in a matter of hours, wow what a difference a REAL COACH makes!!!!!!!

tonyjb37 wrote on December 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm
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Yes Coach Groce is the best thing since sliced bread and yes he coached in a lesser conference last year but the guy is a STUD! A great coache's talent go's where he go's, we are very lucky to have Coach Groce as part of the Illini family. Coach Groce and Coach Bollant both are actually real bona fide winners unlike Tiny Tim!! No pun intended!

ChiefForever wrote on December 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm

And, according to what Steven Bardo said on the radio today, we can thank Brad Stevens for our having John Groce.  After turning down MT's offer to coach Illinois, Stevens suggested he go after John Groce.

jimbo2009 wrote on December 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm

He better be out recruiting a JC QB, since none of the current ones on the roster can pass beyond 15 yards accurately!!!!   Projected 10,000 fewer season tickets in 2013 = loss of $3M+ for DIA.  MT will be on the hot seat after next season.

Buffetrph@aol.com wrote on December 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm

The reason I am so disappointed is that the defense should have been better.  They took the aggressiveness away from them.  


tonyjb37 wrote on December 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm
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If you want a real coach to coach football give me a call Mikey I will coach for only one hundred thousand dollars a year and when we win our first national championship then we will talk about a raise. I got to  tell you though i am a mans man a no holds barred blue collar man that does not mess around or play games I am in the business of winning Championships and if I coached my Beloved Illini believe me when I tell you that business would be great! You know how to get a hold of me. I am tired of people always talking about people behind annonymous key boards or whatever well I will make myself available to you any time that you are interested in hiring a REAL COACH to COACH this Illini Team.

IlliniJ.D. wrote on December 10, 2012 at 9:12 pm

It's funny how people want a real coach such as Jim Tressel, yet criticize Beckman for coming from the MAC. Guess where Jim Tressel coached before tOSU?  YOUNGSTOWN STATE.  If Illinois hired a D-1-AA coach Illini fans would have absolutely lost their minds.  If you want to criticize Beckman, do it based on the results this year.  But don't criticize him because he coached at UT while simultaneously promoting guys like Tressel. 

coaxhdufus wrote on December 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm

difference is

one is a proven winner and the other a proven looser...see if you can guess which is which

Illinigrad wrote on December 10, 2012 at 11:12 pm

"He came in with a bare cupboard."

I bet many of the juniors and seniors from two bowl games would disagree with you.  Beckman did the near impossible and changed a 7-6 competitive, bowl winning team into a 2-10 laugher. I took a highly rated defensive squad and turned them into an ineffective squad.

illinigator wrote on December 11, 2012 at 6:12 am

I czn't beleive Illinois would settle for JC players over some of the talent in Florida.  Illinois athletic wise isn't as good as a Florida, FSU, Miami or Central Florida and can't get the 4or 5 star recruits away from them.  But, they could get a kid or 2 that is a 3 star that has came in under the radar. 




beleive me people,  Florida and Georgia are loaded with talented kids that could help the Illinois program.


Chiefton wrote on December 12, 2012 at 8:12 am

Illinigator --- There is no question very top-level talent coming out of Florida high schools every year.  Problem is, the really good ones get snatched up by the universities in Florida where those kids would always prefer to go.  There are some lower level Florida high schoolers who end up elsewhere around the country (Illinois recruited 9 Floridians in last year's football recruiting class) but these are usually not the type of kids who make much of an impact.  Illinois would do good by just keeping a foothold on some of the top level talent coming out of Illinois high schools every year who generally go to other Big 10 schools and have a nice impact on their college teams.