"Illinois is looking for a new offensive coordinator". Words that have been true for what, 40% of my adult life? Ever since Lou Tepper went Beck-Landry-Schudel it feels like we're always looking for that next offensive coordinator. The only real consistency we've had - Ron Turner running his offense for 7 years.
Here's the list since Lou Tepper took over as head coach:
1992: Tom Beck
1993-94: Greg Landry
1995-96: Paul Schudel
1997-2004: Ron Turner (there were "offensive coordinators" but it was Turner's offense and he called the plays)
2005-08: Mike Locksley
2009: Mike Schultz
2010-11: Paul Petrino
2012: Chris Beatty/Billy Gonzales
2013-14: Bill Cubit
2015: Ryan Cubit
2016-17: Garrick McGee
I feel like I write this post every summer, and then half of those winters we fire the offensive coordinator. In fact, I finished that post this summer with "oh wait - we're finally doing that" and now we fire the offensive coordinator in December. On to the next one.
Here's what I'm not saying:
- McGee should have absolutely kept his job. This point of mine is never "any old offensive coordinator will do". People who understand football much better than me say that his schemes were bland and unoriginal. I don't pretend to know football that well, so I just leave that up to them. I thought the main issue was youth and inexperience in the scheme, but it might very well be bad playcalling.
- All of the OC's listed above would have been good if given more time. Paul Schudel had an experienced team and his scheme was very similar to the other offenses that we ran under Tepper. It completely fell apart under his watch and he absolutely deserved to be fired. I'm more talking about the coordinators given only one year - I just don't think we knew yet.
Here's what I AM saying:
- For what feels like every December, I'm frightened we switch schemes and now have two recruiting classes built towards running a run-heavy spread offense and suddenly some NFL-ish guy is the OC and we have to recruit from scratch again because we just spent two years purging all of the guys recruited for the Cubit offense. I don't think we would do that, and I want to believe there's no way Lovie would get away from the kind of offense he wanted McGee to run, but I'm an Illinois fan and these things happen nearly every winter so I'm scared again.
- Keep the scheme with a better playcaller and yes I think the offense could make a leap next year. Right now I have nine sophomores starting, and those nine sophomores got a mountain of snaps as freshmen, so if the scheme remains similar, we survived a year of green under the old guy and can maybe thrive a little under the new guy. We more or less have 10 returning starters - that's a really good thing for any offensive coordinator (as long as we're not, you know, scrapping the whole offense and starting over with a Ron Turner offense).
- Whoever we hire, can we at least try to keep him (or his offense) around for a long time? It doesn't really have to be a guy - I just want The Illinois Offense that stays the same for a decade. Dream with me for a moment - say we convince Kevin Sumlin to be an OC for a year before he looks for another head coaching job next season. I'd be down with that. Just hire him AND his understudy (make the understudy the QB coach or something) and have him as the OC-in-waiting when Sumlin gets another head coaching gig. My point isn't so much "stop changing names" as it is "stop changing schemes".
If Lovie is here for a decade, we know exactly what the defense will be for that decade. We could swap out Hardy Nickerson for another coordinator and we still know what the defense will be. That's my point. That's what I want for our offense. I want something like The Wisconsin Offense or The Iowa Offense - predictable, but it works. And the more you do it (like, for decades), the more consistent it becomes.
Next year we'll have an offense almost completely dominated by sophomores and freshmen. Lovie will have two recruiting classes, and he'll be attempting to build the Illini offense with maybe... 85% of the players coming from those two classes? My hope was that this would be accomplished under the same offensive scheme as the last two seasons, but we're changing OC's again and that makes me worry that the scheme will change.
So my wish list has just one item: an OC with a similar offense that fits with what we've been recruiting to. Take the foundation laid last year and build on it next year. "Tear it all out and rebuild the foundation" just doesn't sound like any fun.
How do I know? Because we've torn out 11 foundations in the 25 years. Please, someone, at some point, stick to one thing.