Coaches' corner: Mike Bellamy
RANTOUL — A year ago, Mike Bellamy was faced with the same situation he is now.
He was coaching wide receivers who were not too familiar to people outside of Champaign-Urbana. No one who found his way onto any preseason award watch lists or even merited discussion among the top wideouts in the Big Ten.
But by the time the 2013 season ended, Steve Hull found himself fifth in the Big Ten in receiving yards. A virtual unknown for how he could affect the passing game, Hull’s performance allowed him the chance to try out for the New Orleans Saints.
Hull most likely doesn’t get the opportunity to possibly make an NFL roster without Illinois wide receivers coach Bellamy.
The former Illini wideout is entering his second season coaching the same position group he established himself at in the late 1980s.
“It’s exciting because there’s another challenge,” the 48-year-old Bellamy said. “I’ve got guys like last year that weren’t proven.”
Indeed he does. Martize Barr and Justin Hardee are the two veterans of the meeting room for the Illini. Marchie Murdock has seen some reps with the starters at Camp Rantoul, but the Texas native redshirted last season. Besides those three, newcomers like Geronimo Allison, Mike Dudek and Malik Turner are widely considered strong possibilities to catch the ball when Illinois puts it in the air this fall. And, yes, Illinois will throw the ball at easily the same rate it did last year in Bill Cubit’s offensive system.
“For me, it’s just reconfirming (what) I already feel confident about,” Bellamy said. “It’s just about instilling that in the younger guys. Having a year in the offense with (Cubit), and with me being here for another year, makes it easier for the older guys, along with the transition for everybody.”
Bellamy’s first season coaching in the Big Ten last fall was largely considered a success. He had four veterans, however, in Hull, Ryan Lankford, Spencer Harris and Miles Osei to work with. That isn’t exactly the case this time, although the four junior college transfers at the wideout spot — Barr, Allison, Tyrin Stone-Davis and Raphael Barr — give him older players to coach.
“The biggest thing is knowing what levels they come from in their programs,” Bellamy said. “They’re all probably around the same level, but just from a knowledge standpoint, some have taken longer.”