Looks Like University Of Illinois – Two Guys Who Verballed A Month Ago

Big weekend ahead for football recruiting. Tim Beckman has four (maybe five) spots he can fill, there’s a few voids on the 2017 roster that need to be filled (namely defensive line), and players visiting this weekend and next might determine how hard the heavy graduation losses hit after 2016. Two guys who hope to factor into that: Frank Sumpter V and Ainslie Johnson.

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Taking Inventory (Part III – Specialists, Coaches, & Schedule)

This is the final installment in this little series where I take out my clipboard and go through the warehouse. And I’m still stuck on the takeaway from Part II of this series – there will be at least NINE senior starters on the 2016 defense. I’ll try to pull that back in and concentrate on 2015, but seriously, NINE. Here’s 2,700 more words on Illini football: [Read more...]

Taking Inventory (Part II – The Defense)

I always do this. I say I’m going to have Part II up “tomorrow” and then I obsess over it. My stupid brain WILL NOT ALLOW a post to be published until it’s perfect – I’s crossed, T’s dotted – so I write and re-write and people send me “I thought you promised to post it by now?” tweets and I charge on past 2,500 words making sure it’s perfect. So here’s Part II. 48 hours late. [Read more...]

Taking Inventory (Part I – The Offense)

It feels weird to not have written a single football word in over a week. But with vacation + basketball hand-wringing, here I sit, ready to burst with football thoughts. So maybe the best thing to do here is a postseason inventory. I’ve done the depth chart for next year, but where do we really sit at each position? I’ll grab my clipboard – let’s head to the stockroom. [Read more...]

Meeting Minutes

Stayed up until 2:45 in the morning Friday night talking Illini football. Craig, Steve, and I joined my friends Brian and Carmen at something called WingBucket in downtown Dallas where they serve wings and drinks until 3:00 am. That was us in the booth over in the corner, solving every single issue that faces Illini football. Here’s what we collectively decided. Meeting minutes, if you will. [Read more...]

Back & Forth – Louisiana Tech

Texas made me sick. For the last 36 hours, I’ve been rolling back and forth between sweating and freezing, coughing and sneezing. This always happens. I take vacation days between Christmas and New Years, I hug nieces and nephews at Christmas, and I’m sick between Christmas and New Years. Now that I’m done whining, here’s the emails Steve and I shared after the bowl game.

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I interviewed three seniors after the game. Two of those recordings worked. One didn’t. The one that didn’t was Donovonn Young, which was one of my favorite interviews this season. So instead of posting the audio of those interviews, I’m just going to write out what I remember. Because DY put words to the emotions of that locker room after a tough loss. [Read more...]

#HOTTAKES – Craig and the Pyrrhic Victory

Steve HATES press conferences.  They are basically a time for opposing coaches to pay compliments to the other teams with words.  They are also a time for Tim Beckman to count plays and writers to ask awkward questions. [Read more...]

Pressbox Reactions – Craig

I’m not a writer.  I am a guy who loves watching football.  I am part of the reason that terrible bowl games get better ratings than top level basketball games.  This Heart of Dallas bowl was a sloppy football game, but one thing college football yields is some drama.  Expressing why I like these types of games is hard for me to explain. [Read more...]

Pressbox Reactions – Steve

In a game where the result mattered very little (despite my best efforts to build this thing up), the final score mattered less.  Someone getting home after spending the morning returning gifts would see a blowout at the hands of a Conference USA team.  The game was literally closer than that until the very end, and it was metaphorically closer than that even after it ended.  Louisiana Tech outgained Illinois by less than half a yard per play on the game and spent the second and third quarters doing basically nothing on offense.  The Illinois offense moved the ball decently, although it couldn’t convert good drives into touchdowns (or even into points on a couple of occasions).

Those are problems, but they are smaller problems than 35-18 would suggest.  Think of the unflattering scoreline as karma payback for the Minnesota game, but I’d much rather cheat a win from the Gophers on homecoming.

Further improvement off this is absolutely necessary.  “A bit worse than a solid Conference USA program” is not an end goal for a Big Ten program.  But it was a middle goal for a Big Ten program that was miles and miles away from that target two years ago, and not much closer last year.

Whether this team progresses further is anyone’s guess.  But Illinois is at least in a position where progress into “good” is possible.  I am satisfied with that, even if the final result was somewhat less than optimal.