Bob Asmussen: Lemming likes UI recruiting
The Illinois fans have noticed the football commitment list. And expressed a concern on radio shows, social media and other outlets: Where is the defense?
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Tom Lemming, who knows more about recruiting than everyone else combined, has a suggestion: relax.
“You can’t get them all in order,” Lemming said. “There are a lot of good defensive players out there. They’ll get their share. You have to wait for them to make their decisions. That’s not a problem at all.”
Lemming doesn’t hide his pro-Illinois sentiment. Which is funny because critics used to think he favored Notre Dame. Or Michigan. Or whoever else was getting the best players out of Illinois.
“They’re doing really good,” Lemming said. “I’m really impressed with the way they got out there and got a lot of offers out early.”
The key for Illinois recruiting is finding the players and making a pitch.
Scouting is a strength of Tim Beckman’s staff, Lemming said.
“They identified the kids earlier than most people did, and now they are starting to collect their rewards.
“The kids they are bringing in are good ballplayers. Next year, with a few more victories, they’ll just keep on improving and getting more and more better players. They’ve got a good system going.”
The Illini Class of 2015 landed an important recruit when Jacksonville offensive lineman Gabe Megginson said, “Where do I sign?”
“That was a big deal,” Lemming said. “He is one of the best linemen in the state. He’s a big-time catch.”
Illinois needs some good news. Because of the 6-18 record in Beckman’s first two years, rival coaches are pounding the Illini recruiting with talk about impending doom. It was the same tactic used against Ron Zook, Ron Turner and Lou Tepper. Mean to be sure. But effective.
“Everyone gets hammered until you start winning,” Lemming said.
Lemming was talking to longtime Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez earlier in week about his early years in Madison. He went 1-10, 5-6 and 5-6 before turning it around.
Alvarez recruited the players that led to his first Rose Bowl appearance despite down seasons on the field. The players didn’t care about the record because Alvarez convinced them the future was bright. And he was right.
“Those are the kind of kids you want in your program,” Lemming said, “Leadership-type kids.”
Lemming thinks Illinois has a solid staff of recruiters, starting with Beckman.
“He is outstanding,” Lemming said. “He’s got a work ethic second to none.”
Lemming rates Nick Saban and Urban Meyer as the country’s top recruiters. Guys who will do whatever it takes to bring in the best players.
“That trickles down to the assistants,” Lemming said. “It all comes from the head coach. If the head coach is out there playing golf, the assistants are out there playing golf. If the head coach is out there recruiting and looking for ways to get better players, the assistant coaches are doing the same. They follow his lead.”
Bill Cubit is a talented recruiter, Lemming said.
“He’s always been good, wherever he’s been at,” Lemming said.
Lemming credits Illinois recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh for the team’s success in Ohio. It is a critical state for the Illini.
“It’s the No. 1 state in the Midwest for talent,” Lemming said. “If you’re in the Big Ten, you have to have somebody who knows Ohio, and you have to recruit it effectively. Ohio State is not in Ohio as much as it used to be. Urban is all over the country. Ohio State’s a national team. It has opened the doors in Ohio more for the Big Ten.”
Ohio becomes more important for Beckman because of a down year, talentwise, in Illinois high schools.
“It’s an average to below-average class of seniors,” Lemming said, “Next year looks like it is going to be a better year, but 2015 isn’t as nearly as good as 2013 and 2014 were.”
The 2014 Illini have a bonus recruit, quarterback Wes Lunt.
“I look for big things out of Wes Lunt,” Lemming said. “He was on his way to being an All-American at Oklahoma State, but he got derailed a little bit the second half of his first year.”
Nothing is going to derail Lemming, who keeps busy with his recruiting work and his television show on CBS Sports Network. Next guest on Aug. 20: “Person of Interest” star Jim Caviezel, who plays a high school coach in an upcoming movie, “When the Game Stands Tall.”
Bob Asmussen writes three columns a week for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at email@example.com.
On the way
Illinois football coach Tim Beckman is piling up commitments for the Class of 2015. Here’s who has said “Yes” so far:
NAME POS. SCHOOL
Dre Brown RB DeKalb
Reggie Corbin RB Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga
Andrew Davis TE Iowa Western C.C.
Henry Enyenihi RB Sacramento City College
Jimmy Fitzgerald QB Centennial
Zach Heath OL American River (Calif.) College
Zeke Martin OL Medina (Ohio)
Sam Mays WR Houston Kinkaid
Gabe Megginson OL Jacksonville
A.D. Miller WR Dallas Bishop Dunne
Pat Nelson DB Chicago Hales Franciscan
Adam Solomon OL Indianapolis Bishop Chatard