In his 31st year on the Illinois football beat, AP Top 25 voter Bob Asmussen is on call 24/7. Submit your questions BY CLICKING HERE and he’ll chase down answers.
Has the Illinois offensive line taken a step backward and why?
Bob says ...
Statistically, the team is not as productive in the usual offensive line measurables. Rushing offense and sacks allowed have taken a significant hit for Illinois.
Last year, Illinois finished 12th nationally in rushing offense. This year, the Illini are currently 85th. with 146,7 yards per game. That’s 98 fewer than a year ago.
In sacks allowed this season, Illinois ranks 116th nationally with 3.17 per game. It was 65th last year at 2.25 per game.
A couple reasons for both. First, in 2018, starting quarterback A.J. Bush helped as a runner with 733 yards and he helped the team avoid a lot of sacks with his ability to scramble. Brandon Peters doesn’t have that same elusiveness.
Second, I don’t think you can overstate the importance of Nick Allegretti to the 2018 team, both in terms of ability and leadership. He tried everything in his power to keep the line in line. He was good enough to get drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he is now on the roster.
There was a coaching change with Bob McClain taking over for Luke Butkus. But that transition seemed smooth because of McClain’s close ties to Rod Smith. They work well together and the players all support McClain. So, I don’t think the change was an issue.