2013 Illinois Spring Football Analysis
Illinois Fighting Illini 2013 ...
Head Coach: Tim Beckman
Illinois Fighting Illini
Why To Be Excited: In a positive way for Illini fans, there’s a major sense of urgency for head coach Tim Beckman coming off a disastrous 2-10 season. Nine starters are back on an offense that has the potential to be far, far better under new coordinator Bill Cubit – it can’t be worse – after finishing last in the Big Ten in total yards and scoring. It only seems like Nathan Scheelhaase is going into his 14th year as the starting quarterback, and with all the top skill players back he should grow into a much more efficient and effective playmaker. Defensively, once Jonathan Brown is back and healthy – which probably won’t be until fall after having shoulder and ankle problems – the Illini will have one of the Big Ten’s better linebacking corps.
8/31 Southern Illinois
9/21 OPEN DATE
9/28 Miami University
10/5 at Nebraska
10/12 OPEN DATE
10/26 Michigan State
11/2 at Penn State
11/9 at Indiana
11/16 Ohio State
11/23 at Purdue
Why To Be Grouchy: The lines need a ton of work, but for different reasons. The offensive front that was so miserable last season in pass protection and so soft for the running game loses tackle Hugh Thornton and center Graham Pocic, but it’s a young group overall that has to be better in time. The defensive line lost tackle Akeem Spence early to the NFL along with fellow interior defender Glenn Foster and end Michael Buchanan. This was a miserably underachieving group that was full of NFL talent, and now it’s going to be a thin and inexperienced front wall.
What Needs Working On: Turnover margin. The punt return game was among the worst in the nation and the offense was the second-worst in college football in both yards and scoring, but overall the team can’t get any better without figuring out how to generate turnovers. The offense gave it up 30 times and always seemed to shoot itself in the foot, but the defense was the bigger problem with a mere seven picks – and three of those coming in the opener against Western Michigan – and 11 fumble recoveries with just three in the last five games.
Non-Conference Games: Southern Illinois, Cincinnati, Washington (in Chicago), Miami University
Games Against The Legends: Michigan State, at Nebraska, Northwestern
Realistic Best Case Record: 7-5
Worst Case Record: 2-10
Likely Finish: 4-8
Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Southern Illinois, Cincinnati, Miami University, at Purdue
Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: Washington, at Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State, at Penn State, at Indiana, Ohio State, Northwestern
Schedule Analysis: The Illini will have to own Champaign and need to come up with a few splashy non-conference wins to have any real hope of going bowling. Southern Illinois and Miami University are the only games Illinois will be the sure-thing favorite even though Cincinnati is coming to Memorial Stadium and Washington will play in Soldier Field. A 3-1 start would do wonders considering the conference slate starts out with a few slugs in the gut.
If playing defending Legends champion Nebraska in Lincoln wasn’t a tough enough way to start, after a week off it’s a home date with Big Ten champion Wisconsin followed up with Michigan State and a trip to Penn State. Fortunately, getting the Badgers and Ohio State at home could help, but going on the road for the winnable games against Indiana and Purdue will be a problem. The Northwestern game in the regular season finale could be for a bowl.
Team Concerns For 2013: The Illini have to start playing up to their talent level. Ron Zook did a decent job of bringing in the athletes, but can they play? They couldn't in 2012 - or Tim Beckman couldn't coach them. The pressure is on for the nation's second-worst offense to start producing, but the defense and special teams need a major boost, too. The O is loaded with veterans, but the defensive front that got rocked has to replace three starters who'll likely find roles at the next level.
The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Defensive linemen. Gone are the days when Ron Zook was making everyone mad after getting top talent after top talent, but Tim Beckman is bringing in a nice big class with the defense getting the biggest boost. The secondary has a few nice prospects in corners Darius Mosely and Caleb Day, but the line has the bulk with Jarron Clements and Bryce Douglas future starters in teh interior and JUCO transfer Abens Cajuste brought in to see time right away. Quarterback Aaron Bailey is the near future, but never year's class will need to focus on getting him some weapons.
2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking:
71. That Class Was Heavy On ... Receivers. Tim Beckman is known for being a defensive coach, but his Toledo teams lived on a high-octane offense. It’s Illinois, so the passing game is going to get plenty of attention with the receiving corps getting new prospects to play around with. The defense is getting a few nice linebackers, and kicker Ryan Frain will get a shot at the job right away, but across the board this class pales in comparison to the monsters Ron Zook brought in when he first started up in Champaign.
2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 35. That Class Was Heavy On ... The passing game. The Illini defensive front got an influx of talent for the inside with Chris Jones and Clint Tucker two active big bodies who fit the team team perfectly. Ends Darrius Caldwell and Chris O’Connor are dangerous pass rushing prospects. While running backs Joshua Ferguson and Donovann Young going to shine, the offensive class is about the passing game with Reilly O’Toole the quarterback for three years from now and receivers Dondi Kirby and Kenny Wright two big, strong targets. The big coup was tight end Jon Davis, who turned down Notre Dame and UCLA.
2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 50. That Class Was
Heavy On ... The middle of the
defensive back seven. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer
is the star of the class and wide receiver Darius
Millines is a good one to step in and potentially
produce early on, but Illinois needed to do
something about its defense ... and now. Jonathan
Brown, Mark Wilson, and Jay Prosch are all built to
play inside linebacker, and they might provide
instant depth. Safety Earnest Thomas is the best
defensive prospect brought in, while JUCO transfer
Trulon Henry has to find a spot somewhere in the
2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 38. That Class Was
Heavy On ... defensive linemen. Lost in the Ron Zook era amidst the publicity around the offense has been a defense that’s been consistently strong. This year’s recruiting class helped the defensive front more than any other area with promising pass rushers Cornellius Carradine and Michael Buchanan for the outside with Lendell Buckner and Akeem Spence for the inside. Buckner has the body and the upside to be special.