Coaches' corner: Al Seamonson

Coaches' corner: Al Seamonson

CHAMPAIGN — Al Seamonson already is hearing from family and friends.

Those who want a seat for the Illinois-Wisconsin game on Oct. 11 at Camp Randall Stadium are letting the Illinois outside linebackers coach and former wide receiver for the Badgers know.

“I’m already getting ticket requests,” he said with a laugh. “It’s going to be tremendous. To play at Camp Randall and to win that game, it’ll be like a dream come true for me.”

Seamonson was a wide receiver at Wisconsin before graduating in 1982. He has returned to his former college home field numerous times since, but actually hasn’t coached a game there since his last year as a graduate assistant at Wisconsin during the 1984 season.

“They’ve had a few modernizations up there since then,” Seamonson said. “But I can’t wait.”

The same holds true for maybe the Illinois fan wondering what the defense will look like this season. Seamonson, back for his second year on Tim Beckman’s staff, works with the two position groups that don’t have the familiar names one is accustomed to hearing: STAR and LEO.

“STAR was a new term for me, too,” Seamonson said of the hybrid linebacker/defensive back. “He’s a little more out in space. The leagues that you play in kind of dictate that a little bit. We’re kind of a 3-4 defense, yet we’re kind of a 2-4-5. That guy’s got to be a hybrid guy that can play on the tight end, but he’s got to be really good in space. It tends to be a little bit lighter guy. You’d still like a big guy who can run. That guy is a pretty important guy to the field side, so he’s got to be more athletic.”

The role falls to Earnest Thomas this season after he played last season at strong safety and finished second on the team with 101 tackles.

“Man, in reality, he should have a tremendous year,” Seamonson said. “I’m not going to assume anything because it’s a guy playing a new position, but he’s got quickness and agility. He can be an effective blitzer.  He’s got a little bit of football savvy that goes along with that, and he’s got coverage ability as well to play in space. Playing on some tight ends is an aspect he’ll have to adjust to, but that’s the part we’re working on right now.”

Dawuane Smoot appears to have the edge to start at LEO, with DeJazz Woods factoring into the rotation, too.

“He’s got to be a great pass rusher, but he’s got to be big enough to play against the run,” Seamonson said. “Right now, our mission is to stop the run, so that guy has got to be a guy like Smoot or Woods.”

Like Thomas, Seamonson is optimistic Smoot — who has added 30 pounds to his frame from last season — can deliver in 2014.

“The key for him is maintaining flexibility and quickness,” Seamonson said. “I’ve got a couple guys, so I’ll never ask a guy to play more than five or six snaps in a row, but some of the packages with a big guy who can run, that helps us because he’ll make us bigger and faster at the same time. I expect big things from him.”