Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:42 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Illinois.
Spring Practice Starts: Wednesday, March 7
Spring Game: Saturday, April 14
Returning Starters: Six on offense, seven on defense, one specialist
Three Things To Watch For:
1. A brand new coaching staff. Ron Zook and just about his entire coaching staff is gone (defensive line coach Keith Gilmore returns) and Tim Beckman is now the man in charge of Illinois football. Which means that not only will spring practice be the first chance for Beckman and his coaching staff to see his new team at work, but also the time to begin implementing a new system on both sides of the ball. There's no way the team will learn everything over the course of a few weeks, but the process begins now.
2. The quarterback battle. Odds are Illinois won't know who its starting quarterback is until the end of the summer, but the battle will begin this spring. Nathan Scheelhaase has been the starter the last two seasons, but he regressed a bit in 2011, and now that there's a new playbook, he isn't guaranteed to retain his starting job. Scheelhaase will be competing with Reilly O'Toole for the job, though if Tim Beckman's time at Toledo teaches us anything, it's that he's not afraid to go with two quarterbacks if needed.
3. The Star Position. Tim Beckman brought in Tim Banks as his defensive coordinator, and Illinois will be running a 4-2-5 defense that includes the "Star" position. Which is a hybrid of a linebacker and a safety. It'll be an interesting battle to see who claims the position, though outside linebacker Ashante Williams is probably the favorite. Williams may get some competition from safety Supo Sanni and incoming freshman TaJarvis Fuller, a playmaker out of Florida. Those two would be well-served to make an early impression over the next few weeks.
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Posted on: January 18, 2012 1:57 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 1:59 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Tim Beckman has finished filling out his staff at Illinois. The school announced on Wednesday that it had hired Tim Banks to be its defensive coordinator.
"Tim Banks is a great fit for the University of Illinois," said Beckman in a release. "He led an outstanding defense at Central Michigan and made a great improvement at Cincinnati this past season. Tim and I worked together at Bowling Green and I consider him one of the brightest young coaches in the nation. Tim will run a very aggressive defensive system that will work very well with our personnel."
Banks has spent the last five years of his career as a co-defensive coordinator, with the last two coming at Cincinnati and the previous three at Central Michigan. He helped turn around a Cincinnati defense that had a lot to do with the Bearcats success in 2011.
The Bearcats defense finished the season rated 42nd in total defense, but it was ranked 6th against the run, allowing only 96 yards per game. The unit also led the country in tackles for loss with 111 and finished 2nd in sacks with 45.
A trend Tim Beckman and Illinois would like to see continue. While Illinois struggled on offense over the last half of the 2011 season, its defense remained one of the best in the country. If Banks is able to keep the defense on the same level, it will make the transition on offense that much easier.
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