SOC Rehearsal August 24, 2012
If you’re new to ALE, I do this thing on Friday nights called Stream Of Consciousness. My mind is consumed with Illini Football from September to November (OK, late-July through mid-December, mid-January when bowling), and Friday evenings are almost unbearable. So many thoughts going through my head that I’m barely able to sleep. Can we contain their tailback? Is our wide receiver ready to have a breakout game? Is Zook going to save his timeouts for the apocalypse?
So three years ago I started Stream Of Consciousness posts. At some point, on Friday evenings, 8:30 or so if I have nothing going on, sometimes 2:00 am if I do, I sit down and type out all of my thoughts. And I don’t edit them. I don’t even re-read them. I don’t erase paragraphs. I don’t even pause to think “should I write about X?” – I simply sit at the keyboard, rhetorically vomit, end the post with my prediction for the game the next day, and then go to sleep.
Today, I feel the need to practice. There are SOMANY thoughts in my head right now about the season. So many fears. And right now, the fears outweigh the certainties. Which means I’m probably leaning towards a 4-8 or 5-7 season prediction (I save that for the first SOC, too). I have 34 minutes on my lunch break right now – I’ma SOC these fears.
1) Coach Beckman said that both Supo Sanni and STEVEHULL were held out with injuries from practice yesterday. ALEX CARDER MIGHT THROW FOR 481 YARDS.
This defense has talent. No question about it. And this defense has experience. And, probably most importantly, this defense has maturity. We’ll start seven seniors, three juniors, and just one sophomore (redshirt sophomore Houston Bates). Two of the juniors are redshirt juniors (Spence and Hull), and two of the juniors might explore the NFL Draft after the season (Spence and Brown). Which means we might lose 9 starters off this defense in 2013 (which is a fear for a year from now).
What this defense does not have, however, is depth. On the defensive line, after Buchanan-Spence-Foster-Staples, I’d say we can trust one backup (Tim Kynard, who might even start) and that’s it. Darrius Caldwell shows promise at Leo, and Teitsma and Howe should be ready for backup minutes at DT, but really, we have one experienced backup.
At linebacker, we have some depth, but not much experience. This will be the first year starting for Ashante Williams and Houston Bates, and none of the backups have any experience. We’re deep, which is good, but probably the least game-ready there.
And in the secondary, we return four guys with a ton of minutes logged. Loads of experience. But I’d say Pat Nixon-Youman is the only backup that we can trust right now. Earnest Thomas is showing promise, but he’s never really played. And Eaton Spence and V’Angelo Bentley (our likely backup cornerbacks) have never played a single snap.
So if you ranked all of the Big Ten teams on “talent + experience” on defense, our starters would rank #2 or #3 in the conference and our backups might be 11th or 12th.
2) On offense, oh man where do I start?
+ We averaged 11 points per game over our final seven games. And the “that’s OK, Western Michigan has a crappy defense” thing? Yes, they did last year. 99th nationally. Tim Beckman’s Toledo team put up 66 points on them last year. Illinois? Scored 23 and won with a late Dimke field goal (and a late Buchanan sack).
+ We don’t have any upperclassmen tailbacks. One sophomore and three freshmen. That whole “95% of college football players aren’t ready to contribute until their third year” thing that I hold to? We don’t have any other choice.
+ Our coordinators will be calling plays for their first ever game. Neither Chris Beatty or Billy Gonzales have ever called plays for a FBS program. From reports, it looks like Beatty will be calling the majority of the plays from the pressbox. Which makes sense – he called plays when he was a high school coach. The bad news: He was a high school coach just seven years ago. Is he ready to call plays for a struggling offense against a possible 10-win MAC opponent?
You know what? I just had a breakthrough. In typing out the part about Beatty being a high school coach in 2005, I realized that that’s when Zook took over in Champaign. Which made my brain click – “hey dummy, Zook isn’t here anymore”. Which brought me the following positive thoughts:
Zook isn’t here anymore. Ron Turner went back to the NFL where he didn’t have to worry about the part of college football he hated – recruiting. Lou Tepper bounced around Division II after he was fired. All three men proved that they weren’t ready for BCS college football – Tepper because he was a defensive coach only, Turner because he didn’t want to recruit, and Zook because he thought 4-star recruits would just win games on their own.
Now? Now we have a coach who has been waiting for this moment his entire life. He’s not headed for the NFL some day. He’s not just a guy with a defensive scheme he believes in. He’s worked for 25 years to get to the point where he can take over a BCS-conference program. This is what he wants to do with his life. He told his dad when he was a teen that he wanted to be a major conference college coach. He’s kept a notebook of everything he’d implement once he got to that point. And now it’s here.
So the past 20 years of Just Wait For It that I’ve put myself through? Maybe those days are actually… over? Sure, it might take some time as Tim Beckman implements his schemes and his program in Champaign. Year 5 will certainly be better than Year 1. But when I walk into the stadium eight days from now, maybe I need to realize that Zook and Turner and Tepper – and the man who hired all three – are gone. Maybe I need to realize that we might actually look… well prepared?
Jonathan Brown and Micheal Buchanan doing their thing for a coach who gets it? Um, yes please. Nathan Scheelhaase, with 26 games of starting experience, stepping into an offense best suited to his strengths? Thank you, sir, I’ll take one, please. What if… what if we’re actually building a football program now? What if 20 years of three flailing coaches was the darkness and the sun is about to rise? I mean, sure, Beckman might just be #4 on that list some day… but it’s equally possible that he does what John Mackovic was able to do – take the state school from the largest state in the Big Ten footprint and build a consistent winner.
We’re Illinois Football and we… CAN.. be trusted?