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Beckman and the Illini look to turn over a new leaf in '12
Zach Clark (9:16 am)

Team: 

Illinois Fighting Illini

Head Coach:

Tim Beckman (1st year at Illinois)
2011 Record (with Ron Zook): 7-6 (2-6)
Overall Head Coaching Record: 21-16

Schedule Preview:

In 2012, first-year coach Tim Beckman and the Fighting Illini open up vs. the Western Michigan Broncos, at the Arizona St. Sun Devils, vs. the Charleston Southern Buccaneers and vs. the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.  While defeating the Broncos and Sun Devils by a field goal in that enigma of a season they call “2011,” I expect the Fighting Illini to start 4-0 and get the very few Champaign faithful ecstatic for the remaining games in conference play.  

As I stated in my B1G Preview for the Indiana Hoosiers, I do not expect it to be very long before Coach Beckman gets the Illini back on track to possibly contend in the Leaders division of the B1G.  After all, who else besides our beloved Buckeyes are considered legitimate competition in the Leaders division in the coming years?  Indiana and Purdue are almost always irrelevant.  We all know the Penn St. situation, and only God knows how that program will end up after the NCAA, the B1G and the general opinion of America (including potential recruits) are done with them.  This leaves only Illinois and Wisconsin.  I don’t know about you, but something tells me Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema does not have the brains or ability to turn Wisconsin into a consistent Leader-division threat as long as Ohio State is eligible.  As you can probably guess, I credit Russell Wilson with the majority of Wisconsin’s 2011 success.  By the looks of it, Coach Beckman has really no other choice other than to bring the Illini away from the B1G’s depths, at least for the sake of the Leaders division’s reputation.  Of course, it isn't simply due to the lack of potential suitors in the Leaders division that I would say that Beckman is capable of doing this.  Coach Beckman is widely considered an up-and-coming coach and studied under our very own Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel at Bowling Green and Ohio State.  

To get back on topic, the Illini’s conference slate shapes out rather unfavorably.  I project a 3-5 conference record with wins vs. Penn St, at Indiana, and vs. Minnesota.  The Illini’s five losses should come at Wisconsin, at Michigan, at Ohio State, vs. Purdue (disappointing, I know) and at Northwestern.  Although I am clearly very high on Coach Beckman and raved about him for a good portion of the last paragraph, I think it will undoubtedly take 2-3 years for him to shape the squad from Champaign, IL into real players.

Incoming Players:

According to Rivals.com, the 2012 Fighting Illini recruiting class is ranked 64th nationally and 10th in the B1G.  With the timing of Coach Beckman’s hire giving him roughly two months to complete and sustain Illinois’s 2012 recruiting class, he failed to lock up any 4-star rated recruits.  However, highlighting the 2012 recruiting class on offense is 5’10” 195 lb. RB Dami Ayoola out of Florida prep-powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Ayoola had a very impressive offer list including schools such as Auburn, Iowa, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Wisconsin.  I caught up with my good friend Tevin Allen, current sophomore defensive back for the Illinois State Redbirds and product of St. Thomas Aquinas to see what he thought about Ayoola.  Allen states, “He definitely starts off with a winning attitude coming from STA [St. Thomas Aquinas].  Smart football player that can carry the load and brings a solid structure with good footwork and receiving ability.  One of the hardest workers I know.”  Sounds like the Illini got a good one in Ayoola.  Special thanks to Tevin for the inside scoop and good luck to him and the Redbirds this upcoming season.

Defensively, the Illini add six DB’s, three LB’s and two DL.  Of these 11 defensive recruits, four hail from Ohio.  Expect Coach Beckman to continue this trend in future classes, as he has been handing out offers left and right to kids from Ohio.

Vital Departures:

Three very vital departures for the Illini from 2011 to 2012: K Derek Dimke, WR A.J. Jenkins and DE Whitney Mercilus.  Dimke made 39 of 46 field goals in his career (an Illini record), Jenkins was 2011’s leading receiver and nearly set an Illini record for most catches in a season and Mercilus tied ex-Illini Simeon Rice for most sacks in a season (16) in 2011.  These record-breakers will be greatly missed, as we will surely see Jenkins and Mercilus on Sundays after they were both drafted in the first round of the past NFL draft.

Zach’s Firsthand Experience with Coach Tim Beckman:

While provided the opportunity to attend the great University of Illinois, I was fortunate enough to receive a tour of the Illini football facilities with some fellow Illini scholars, all courtesy of Coach Tim Beckman.  Coach Beckman was kind enough to personally lead us on a tour to see the weight room, equipment room, locker room and film room for the Fighting Illini football team.  However, while walking from room to room, one of my “friends” was kind enough to mention to Coach Beckman that he had a Buckeye fan in the room.  Coach immediately turned around in surprise, asked who the intruder was, and, after I identified myself, he uttered a remark I can only describe as an unidentifiable phrase laced with disappointment.  I was kind enough to restrain myself and not inform him that he had, in fact, been a Buckeye fan at one point after serving as a CB coach for a year or two at OSU.  In all seriousness, Coach Beckman provided a great tour for my friends and I.  He seemed like an extremely genuine and kind man, and I wish him the best of luck in 2012 (except week 10).

Predictions:

Overall Record: 7-5
Conference Record: 3-5
Offensive Team MVP: QB Nathan Scheelhaase
Defensive Team MVP: CB Terry Hawthorne
Week 10 Illini-Buckeye Brawl Final Score: Illini 13 OSU 28
 


Comments

07/18/2012 06:40

Great stuff Zach...this series has been fun to read. I'm a little bummed you didn't speak up though. Haha.

Reply
07/18/2012 07:27

Thanks Drew. I know I should have, things could have escalated quickly though. Probably a good thing I bit my tongue, I was surrounded by Illini.

Reply
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