Whitman, Lovie looking to future

Whitman, Lovie looking to future

CHAMPAIGN — There were no long-winded speeches. The pats on the back were kept to a minimum. And the entire event was done in 90 minutes.

The Illinois football team said goodbye to 10 seniors Sunday at its annual banquet. The dinner, held at the I Hotel, opened with a talk from athletic director Josh Whitman.

His message after a 2-10 season?

"Let's not accept where we are," Whitman said. "Let's not accept where the program stands today. Let's continue to work together to accomplish the goal, the dream that we all have for what Illinois football can be. If we start to accept what happened, we have no opportunity to become better."

He talked to the families in attendance.

"Being a player here is not easy," Whitman said. "It comes with a lot of challenges. It comes with a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Knowing that you're there on the other end of the phone, knowing that you're there in the stands, knowing that you're there after the games, the wins and the losses, it really does make an incredible difference."

Whitman, who played tight end at the school from 1997-2000, had special praise for the seniors.

"Your legacy here is solid," Whitman said. "I know that the season didn't go the way any of us wanted it to. I know we didn't win as many games as you would have liked. But never doubt the difference you made on this program. There is great success in the future of Illinois football. And that success will come in large part because of the work you have done to lay the groundwork to allow these guys to continue to build and continue to grow. You will be a part of our family forever."

Second-year coach Lovie Smith introduced the five captains, which were picked by the players.Then he talked briefly about the season. And his expectations going forward.

"It's not a whole lot of fun winning two games," Smith said. "But eventually, during this time of the year, it won't be our end-of-the-year banquet. We'll be talking about what bowl game we're in and playing for championships. That's what we're building right now. Behind the scenes, the foundation is becoming more and more stable. That's where we are right now.

"Some will choose to stay. Some will go. But for you guys in the room that have bought in to what we're doing, we will see the results of this hard work."

Since the end of the season, eight players have announced their plans to transfer.

Award winners at Sunday's banquet

Red Grange Most Outstanding Offensive Player — Lineman Nick Allegretti

Dick Butkus Most Outstanding Defensive Player — End James Crawford

Dike Eddleman Most Outstanding Special Teams Player — Punter Blake Hayes

Wright Commitment to Excellence — Running back Dre Brown

Bruce Capel Award — Running back Kendrick Foster

Scholar-Athlete — Tight end Nathan Echard

Service Above Self — Receiver Malik Turner

Captains — Allegrettin Crawford, Foster, kicker Chase McLaughlin, defensive tackle Tymir Oliver

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Moonpie wrote on December 05, 2017 at 8:12 am

Did Debacle Man also say goodbye to the gaggle of players jumping ship?

Not too soon for the buyout.