Matt Daniels: Weeknight all right for Beckman

Matt Daniels: Weeknight all right for Beckman

CHAMPAIGN — Tim Beckman spent most of his Friday nights last fall at a football game.

But only as a spectator because his son Alex played quarterback at Urbana High School.

Even though Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany recently said he doesn’t anticipate his favorite league playing on Friday nights aside from Labor Day and Thanksgiving weekends, Beckman is all for the move if the Big Ten decides to go that direction. The Illinois athletic department recently sent out a survey to football season ticket-holders, and one of the 57 questions asked was if they would like to see Illinois have a home game scheduled on a weekday night, with Thursday and Friday listed as possibilities.

Illinois never has had a weeknight football game at Memorial Stadium. The last weekday game in Champaign happened during the 2001 season when Illinois defeated Northwestern 34-28 on Thanksgiving to wrap up a Big Ten title.

“I’m a MAC guy, so I’ve played a lot of those games,” said Beckman, whose Toledo teams played 12 weeknight regular season games in his three seasons with the Rockets. “I love it, and I think it’s another opportunity to experience college football. It was sort of electrifying with the surroundings. If Friday night games give us the opportunity to showcase this great conference, then I’m all for it.”

Coaching continuity

For the first time since 2008, Illinois did not have any turnover on its staff from the previous season. It’s a severe departure, too, from how Beckman operated after his first season, when five assistant coaches left the staff. The only noteworthy change regarding this staff is that Alex Golesh is now responsible for the tight ends, running backs and specialists, with Tim Salem focusing solely on special teams. Salem coached the running backs in his first two seasons with the Illini.

“I’m not a big guy who believes in firing people,” Beckman said. “It was very tough last year. This year is how it usually is for me.”

The players seem to appreciate the decision to keep the entire staff intact, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Speculation ensued that defensive coordinator Tim Banks would not return for his third season at Illinois, but Beckman quashed those rumors shortly before Christmas.

“Having our whole staff back is going to do wonders for us because it’s just another year that we’re running the same system and another year to react,” linebacker Mason Monheim said. “It’s tremendous, and there’s definitely high expectations because of it.”

Cornerback V’Angelo Bentley concurs.

“It’s kind of a rollover of getting better at what we didn’t do last year,” he said. “There’s not a lot of confusion. If you didn’t know the defense that well last year, you don’t have to learn a whole new defense. You can just pick up where you left off.”

Offers increase for Megginson

Gabe Megginson spouts off key recruiting dates like he’s gone through the process for years.

The Class of 2015 left tackle from Jacksonville probably feels like it with all the recruiting attention he has received lately.

Megginson, who has an Illinois offer, has started to see offers from Ohio State, Miami, California and others float in.

Doesn’t mean the Illini are out of the running for one of the state’s premier offensive linemen in the next recruiting class, though.

Megginson — a three-star recruit listed at 6-feet-5 and 290 pounds — said he hears most frequently from Beckman, recruiting coordinator Golesh, offensive line coach A.J. Ricker and defensive line coach Greg Colby.

“They definitely recruit me the hardest,” said Megginson, who was in Champaign-Urbana the first weekend of February for a junior day event and attended the Illinois-Nebraska basketball game Feb. 26 with fellow Class of 2015 offensive lineman recruit in Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin right tackle Quinn Oseland along with Illinois commit Jimmy Fitzgerald, the quarterback at Centennial. “It’s great to know that they’re wanting you that much. I can talk to them about anything. They’re just good people. They are always going to be in the discussion. I really like it there.”

Megginson had seven offers — Illinois is included in that batch — when Jacksonville’s season ended Nov. 9 with a 35-27 loss to Normal U-High in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.

The list has ballooned to 23 offers. His offer list boasts multiple ones from the Big Ten (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin), multiple ones from the SEC (Arkansas, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Missouri), multiple ones from the ACC (Louisville, which joins the league in the 2014 football season, North Carolina State and Miami) and multiple ones from the Pac-12 (California and Utah), along with an offer from the Big 12 (Iowa State).

The recruiting process will keep Megginson busy the rest of the winter and into the spring.

By the time Jacksonville starts its 2014 season in late August, it’s likely he’ll have made up his mind.

“I’d like to decide by the end of May, but it might be a little quicker, though,” Megginson said. “I’ll probably trim my list down in my head and not put it out there publicly.”

Nagel enjoying process

Much has changed in Flynn Nagel’s life since his junior football season ended five days before Thanksgiving.

He goes to a different school now.

And he’s hearing more from college coaches after a superb fall at Chicago Marist, which ended just shy of playing for a Class 8A state title when Marist lost an agonizingly close state semifinal game 27-21 to eventual state champion Naperville Central.

The Class of 2015 wide receiver now attends Lemont High School, the same suburban Chicago city in which he lives.

“It was nothing against Marist,” Nagel said. “It was a financial and personal decision for me and my family. I loved everything about Marist. We felt Lemont would be a better option. I’m comfortable with all the guys there because I grew up with them.”

Illinois, Bowling Green, Indiana, Iowa State, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois and Western Michigan have extended offers.

Nagel said he is staying in contact with Boston College, Duke, Iowa, Nebraska and Purdue, too, mainly via social media. Nagel remained coy about when he might decide.

“I don’t have a time frame, but I’m definitely not going to (commit) within the next month, and I won’t commit right next to Signing Day, either,” he said. “It may be right before the season or it may not be. Whenever I feel comfortable.”

Comfort is a word that comes up often when Nagel discusses Illinois.

“I like Illinois a lot,” he said. “Every time I get to go down there and talk to the coaching staff, it’s always a great talk. I’m just really comfortable with them. I like the fact that they have really good accounting and engineering programs, too, and I like that it’s close to home. I feel that the football team is definitely on the rise, too.”

First and 10

This week’s list: A look at Big Ten spring football drills

First spring practice was ... March 5.
The spring game is ... at 2 p.m. April 12.
The spring is a success if ... the defense gains confidence. And some playmakers. The question marks aren’t nearly as high regarding the offense as they are for the defensive side of the ball when it comes to Tim Beckman’s program.

First spring practice was ... March 8.
The spring game is ... at a time to be determined April 12.
The spring is a success if ... coach Kevin Wilson can effectively figure out how to utilize quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. Along with getting the porous defense last year in a better position to tackle someone.

First spring practice is ... March 24.
The spring game is ... at a time to be determined April 26.
The spring is a success if ... the Hawkeyes find capable replacements at linebacker. James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey were among the best the conference had last year. Who fills their shoes?   

First spring practice was ... March 1.
The spring game is ... at 6 p.m. April 11.
The spring is a success if ... Mike Locksley’s offense continues to improve. The former Illinois offensive coordinator has a veteran QB in sixth-year senior C.J. Brown, who many Big Ten defensive coordinators will get acquainted with.

First spring practice was ... Feb. 25.
The spring game is ... at a time to be determined April 5.
The spring is a success if ... Devin Gardner recovers from his foot injury and adapts well to new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s system. If not, Brady Hoke will have more folks in Ann Arbor yearning for the days of Lloyd Carr.

Michigan State
First spring practice is ... March 25.
The spring game is ... at 1 p.m. April 26.
The spring is a success if ... Connor Cook looks like the second coming of Kirk Cousins. Consistent quarterback play could vault the Spartans, who always will have a stout defense under coordinator Pat Narduzzi, even higher.

First spring practice was ... March 4.
The spring game is ... at 1:30 p.m. April 12.
The spring is a success if ... Mitch Leidner begins to resemble Jordan Lynch. He is now Jerry Kill’s featured QB after Phillip Nelson opted to transfer to Rutgers, and the dual-threat Leidner could emerge this fall.

First spring practice was ... March 8.
The spring game is ... at 1 p.m. April 12.
The spring is a success if ... Bo Pelini doesn’t blow his top. The Cornhuskers boss, who received a one-year contract extension through  February 2019, bought himself some time with the Gator Bowl win against Georgia, but fans in Lincoln don’t want to go 9-4 each season. Oh, the horror.

First spring practice was ... Feb. 26.
The spring game is ... at a time to be determined April 12.
The spring is a success if ... Venric Mark returns to his form in 2012. Injuries robbed the versatile Mark of displaying his talents last fall. The fifth-year senior is a capable threat in the rushing and return game for the Wildcats.  

Ohio State
First spring practice was ... March 4.
The spring game is ... at 12:30 p.m. April 12.
The spring is a success if ... the Buckeyes can become a bona fide defense again. Opponents put up at least 30 points against Urban Meyer’s defense last fall. Braxton Miller can’t total 500 yards of offense every game.

Penn State
First spring practice is ... March 17.
The spring game is ... at 12:30 p.m. April 12.
The spring is a success if ... the buzz of hiring James Franklin carries onto the field. Christian Hackenberg is poised to continue his development at quarterback, but the Nittany Lions will have other key pieces to replace on offense.

First spring practice was ... March 6.
The spring game is ... at noon April 12.
The spring is a success if ... a woebegone team last year finds renewed confidence. It may take a while for the Boilermakers to approach the level they were at when Drew Brees, Kyle Orton or Curtis Painter lit up scoreboards.

First spring practice is ... March 25.
The spring game is ... at 2 p.m. April 26.
The spring is a success if ... quarterback Gary Nova finds consistency he has lacked throughout his career and linebacker Steven Longa stays the tackling machine he was last year when he made 123 tackles as a freshman.

First spring practice was ... March 5.
The spring game is ... at 3 p.m. April 12.
The spring is a success if ... a new Chris Borland emerges on defense. The linebacker caused havoc no matter where he was on the field. Perfect time for Michael Caputo, Derek Landisch and others to emerge in that role.

Got a second?

Three questions with: former Illini linebacker Jonathan Brown, Illinois’ best draft prospect in 2014

Where have you been training?
I’ve been down in Atlanta with Chip Smith. It was me, Spencer (Harris) and A.J. Jenkins down there, too. You train for four or five hours a day, and the rest of the time you’re by yourself, so it’s always good to have somebody you know and just hang out with. It’s a wonderful feeling being down with the whole scouting process now and focusing on the football part of it. It’s a good feeling. I feel like I can relax and get to what I can do best.

What are you hearing from NFL teams, if anything?
Just to stay in shape. A lot of teams are going to come back for the private workouts. I don’t know which teams like me the best right now or who’s about to draft me, but I’m just going to do everything on my part.

What was the interview process at the NFL combine like?
It wasn’t as detailed as it was at the Senior Bowl. At the Senior Bowl they had a lot more time where they could sit down with guys and talk to them more. The combine was a fun experience, though, as far as the interviews went. It was real unofficial. A lot of coaches were getting to know me as a person this time since at the Senior Bowl they got to know me as a player.

Third down

Bob Asmussen's random thoughts

Snow, what snow?
Normally, spring football practices are held outside. Not at Illinois. At least not the first two days of the current session.

With snow covering the practice fields and temperatures closer to freezing than balmy, Illinois coach Tim Beckman decided to use the Irwin Indoor Facility on Wednesday and Friday.

“Nobody would shovel off the snow on the field for us,” Beckman said.

The downside to being inside is it cuts into the amount of work Illinois can do on special teams. The ceiling isn’t high enough at Irwin for normal punting and kicking.

“We would have had 25 minutes of catching punts, catching kickoffs, doing those types of things,” Beckman said.

When the workouts are at Irwin, Beckman cranks the heat up, trying to match the conditions the team will face in August.

“I make them sweat, and I make them realize this is what camp is going to be like; this is what September and October are going to be like.”

Beckman is happy to have practices earlier in the spring. At past coaching stops, Beckman often practiced earlier. Coaches favor routines.

“I use spring break as an open week,” Beckman said.

The team will take its workouts on the road to Springfield and Chicago.

“Those are like an away game,” Beckman said.

Easy picks
The College Football Hall of Fame ballot includes 75 players and six coaches. Former Illini Dana Howard and Simeon Rice should be strongly considered. But who else deserves to be a part of the Class of 2014? Voters and a committee will select 14 players and two coaches. Some no-brainers on the list are Southern Cal receiver Keyshawn Johnson, Washington offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy, Miami linebacker Ray Lewis, Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El, Louisiana Tech offensive tackle Willie Roaf, Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp, Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas, TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Texas running back Ricky Williams and Oregon coach Mike Bellotti.

The ballots were sent out to 12,000 National Football Foundation members. Hopefully, they will make the correct choices.

Logic takes over
The old rule never made any sense. In the past, when a player was called for targeting, his team was assessed a 15-yard penalty even if the violation was overturned by replay. So, you were found guilty even if didn’t actually break the rules. Sounds like a very NCAA way of doing things. But the fine folks in charge of the football rules have decided to rethink the injustice of it all. Good move. You will hear no objections to the targeting rule here. It saves on possible injuries and careers. The schools seem to be doing a better job of teaching their players the proper techniques, too. Hopefully, the number of targeting penalties will drop each year.

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Moonpie wrote on March 09, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Coach -- WE KNOW YOU"RE A MAC GUY. Your record reflects it.