2016 Illini Football Preview

I write these like I write the SOC posts – furiously type absolutely everything I know about Illini Football without stopping to edit (or proofread). And I can’t ever type fast enough. It’s just me emptying my brain of absolutely everything I can think of regarding this team. This year: 22,004 words. [Read more…]

Power Five

You’re waking up to three new posts.  This post – which looks at this recruiting class, where it stands in the conference, and where it’s headed – and then two new LLUOI posts for wide receiver Carmoni Green and defensive end Lere Oladipo. Damn right it was a good day.
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Looks Like University Of Illinois – Trent Frazier

Someone I know on the internet suggested the perfect nickname for Frazier. In the spirit of “Luther Powell Jr.”, motion to refer to this kid as “Chester Meacham”. See, the 2009 backcourt was TRENT Meacham and Chester FRAZIER, Trent Frazier, Chester Meacham, yeah, you’re right, the explanation ruins it. [Read more…]

Camp Lovie XXVII: Mailbag 4

Here’s the third mailbag post that I started last night but couldn’t finish because sleep is apparently important. I wanted to get to the next 90i post, but mailbagging is so much fun. [Read more…]

Camp Lovie XXI: Random Thoughts

I have this collection of thoughts in my head – from the last week, from the Media Day, from practice today – so I think I just need to write them all down. Sweep the corners of my brain and see what I find. [Read more…]

Camp Lovie XX: Combo Interviews

Big ups to the SID staff for putting up with me. I requested these interviews – Dude K and Dre Brown together plus Gabe Megginson and Adam Solomon together – and they obliged. Also, big ups to those four dudes for putting up with my ridiculously dumb questions. I did pull off one feat, though: the entire interview with Mikey and Dre without talking about their knees. [Read more…]

Looks Like University Of Illinois – Larry Boyd

What a difference 30 hours makes.

On Friday afternoon, I’m staring off into the void. Micah Awodiran has chosen Yale, Tony Adams is about to pick Mizzou, and we’re still stuck on seven commits.  By Saturday night, Adams chose Illinois and then Mizzou’s top offensive line target chooses Illinois.  I could get used to this. [Read more…]

Looks Like University Of Illinois – Tony Adams

I don’t do LLUOI’s for kids who choose other schools (although maybe I should).  So there won’t be much mention of Jordan Goodwin. SLU hired his former AAU coach, he picked SLU. The end.  Instead, let’s focus on SLUH, which is SLU’s high school.  That’s where we beat Missouri for 3* ATH Tony Adams. [Read more…]

Camp Lovie XIII: Craig on Practice

In the absence of actual opponents, the story of fall camp will inevitably be Lovie Smith.  We are all desperate to know whether Lovie can make the future different and better than the Tim Beckman years.  I can’t answer that question today, but I can share some observations on how Lovie is going about trying.

It is said that practice makes perfect.  Which is not true of course.  If you screw it up every time in practice, you will screw it up in the game too.  So, the saying now is perfect practice makes perfect.  Lovie seems to be a very firm proponent of this approach.  The way practices flow now is wildly different than the Beckman era.

The initial impression is that a lot of time is taken to teach the items that were not done right.  They hit the mantra of perfect practice hard.  It has been a stretch since I have seen this much detailed instruction.  Whether it be Butkus working the OL, or Ligasheski teaching the gunners, the staff is always in full teaching mode.  In general, it is much closer to a pro practice, or high school depending on your perspective. Pro practices take the time on details because it is a limited roster and unlimited time.  High schools focus on it because they have limited time and limited playbooks.  This Illini staff is taking valuable time to teach, which looks different than in previous years.  There seems to be no time pressure on getting through drills, even when you can see the clock running.

The clock was always another member of the staff in previous years.  It led to lots of yelling and hurrying, now practice is a lot quieter. With Beckman, there was a DJ and music and constant noise pollution.  With Lovie, no loud music, and minimized yelling.  Now, the entire atmosphere is more relaxed.  Players don’t run station to station like the prior staff.  The staff expects the players to be in place on time.  Also, you always knew where Beckman was on the field.  He was extremely active and vocal during practice.  While attending camp this year, I continually forget where Lovie is, and remind myself to look for him to determine what he is doing during practice.  It is quite the difference.

It is also harder to find Lovie thanks to Josh Whitman.  There are more coaches on the field, which helps with better coordination during the practice.  Under Beckman, coaches the clocks were constantly reminding them exactly when to make changes.  Beckman had a practice that was very scripted with pressure to get things done before the clock hit zero.  I always had the standardized test anxiety at practice.  Now, things are still very scripted, but a looser feel to the practice overall.  With more coaches, they are able give players more instruction in the same time because they are able to break up the practice session into smaller groups.  For example, the quick side and strong side offensive line have separate drills.  The safeties, corners and nickels all work independently.  When you add a couple of GAs, and support staff to maximize the time, this is the result.

Extra coaches don’t matter if they are not all on the same page.  This staff is confident in each other.  I was very impressed with how Mike Phair coached last year.  He had a very different demeanor with his group, and exuded a quiet confidence the entire time.  That is not to say he didn’t yell or get on guys, but it FELT different.  The whole staff seems to have that air about them now.  Part is the confidence that you are not coaching for your job.  The other is the confidence that the entire staff is synced up.  Mike Phair and Hardy Nickerson are both speaking the same language.  Garrick McGee is coaching a zone scheme, and Luke Butkus is a disciple of Alex Gibbs.  They both speak the same language.

Practice feels a great deal different now.  It is compelling to watch a staff confident in the method, a staff trying to impart that method across the entire roster.  The fall roster is not at the NCAA max.  The players practicing are those the staff intend to contribute in a meaningful way. The teaching method is different.  There are more teachers on the field.  This all adds up to a staff that is changing the feel of the Illini program.  I am looking forward to see how this all translates on the field.


Camp Lovie XII: Thoughts From The Road

Because I’m never one to break from tradition, each year as I drive home from camp I record myself on the road. This year there will be two leaving camps – I’m going back up Saturday through Tuesday for a second stint.  But for these first five days, here’s my thoughts.  [Read more…]