Illini Christmas Presents December 24, 2012
I’ve decided to hand out some gifts this Christmas Eve. End of intro.
Nathan Scheelhaase – Videotape of the Texas Bowl
I watched this game again recently. Most of you know that I was the world’s biggest Mikel Leshoure fan, dating back to his freshman and sophomore years, but man, I think even I underappreciated him. His vision was/is amazing.
But the main thing that stuck out to me was Nate. He looked so incredibly confident in that game (as a freshman, I might add). Not just in demeanor – in throwing motion, too. He kept his footwork clean, stepped up into a few pockets, delivered the ball with feet planted firmly on the ground.
I know the line has gotten worse and the pocket has disappeared, but even on throws where he did have some time this year, Nate looked nothing like this. What happened? Was Jeff Brohm able to coach him in a way that Chris Beatty cannot? Is it purely a loss of confidence?
Watch the tape, Nate. Recapture that. Your numbers in your first 18 games were significantly better than your numbers in the last 18 games. And you only have one year to find it again.
John Groce – A Six Year Contract Extension
I think I’ve seen enough. Enough of all facets. He’s recruited well, landing Kenrick Nunn and Austin Colbert in the fall (as well as Jaylon Tate). He’s a winner when he speaks to the press. And his teams play hard. I know we don’t have to, but I’d be down with extending him now. It’s Christmas, and after what he’s done in his first eight months on the job, he needs a significant present. What’s better than a contract extension?
It’s strange that after only eight months, I’m fully confident in our 2015 recruiting class. He was late to the 2013 class (but still did a solid job), and he only has one scholarship currently for the 2014 class. So 2015 is the year when his recruiting will be judged. And I’m fully confident we’ll have a top 10 class. He made up so much ground with the 2013 recruits (even the ones we didn’t get) that I can’t see him failing with two years to close on some of these kids.
So, Mr. Groce, you get a contract extension for Christmas. Oh, sorry, I should tell you that it’s non-binding. It’s just a token thing. Talk to Mr. Thomas about a real one. But hey, it’s the thought that counts. And my thought is that you get an A- for your first eight months.
Tim Beckman – Strategic Public Relations: 10 Principles to Harness The Power Of PR
Dipping on the sidelines. Tripping officials TWICE. These things matter, and so far, it’s been a disaster. Given the 0-6 finish to 2011, I think Illini fans would have accepted, begrudgingly, a 4-8 season or so. They could have categorized it as “Zook left a mess” and bought into the new staff. But a 2-10 record, combined with declining a penalty to give your opponent 2nd and 8 instead of 1st and 15, combined with undisciplined football, combined with dipping and tripping, have turned off a majority of the fanbase already.
And it’s not just the trips and dip. The refusal to talk about injuries was, in my opinion, one of the biggest PR mistakes of the season. We lost 83 starts to injury (I’d say a typical team loses 25-30 starts from starters every year), and really, nobody ever talked about it because the coaching staff refused to talk about it.
The idea behind that, of course, was that opponents could use that injury information to gameplan against us. But in my book, talking openly about injuries for PR reasons >>>>>>> hiding injuries for gameplanning reasons. I’m not saying make it some huge excuse – I’m saying look me square in the (camera) and tell me that nine starters are out and the backups are going to have to step up. “There are 80 scholarship players on this roster and that means 71 guys can still step forward” and such. I like my coaches up front. Beckman’s first year didn’t feel that way. So it’s time for some PR lessons.
Sam McLaurin – 15,000 Thank-You Cards
We had around 15,000 at our last home game – I should have put a thank-you card under every seat. Just let everyone write Sam a little note saying “dude, if you hadn’t transferred here, this team would be in such huge trouble heading into Big Ten play”. Maybe something a little more eloquent than that.
But seriously, think about this roster without McLaurin. Mike Shaw isn’t there yet (I still hold out hope he will be by his junior year). Ibby Djimde just can’t find the rotation. So without McLaurin, we were in huge trouble in the frontcourt. I don’t think it’s stretching things at all to say that if McLaurin stayed at Coastal Carolina, we’d have three, maybe four losses at this point. He’s done so many of the little things. A glue guy, if you will.
Hmmm… maybe his gift should be some Elmer’s or something.
Aaron Bailey – The Key To Memorial Stadium
A token gift, sure, but I just want Aaron Bailey to know that this is his program. We’re going to build everything around him. In my opinion, he’s the best running QB we’ve ever recruited (quicker than Juice, much more powerful than Nate). And his arm tests out much stronger than Nate’s (although not as strong as Juice’s). Give him a seasoning year in 2013 (maybe some plays at RB or WR, maybe some Wildcat packages and such), and then give him even more time in 2014 (while maybe platooning a bit with Reilly if he develops a pocket presence).
The goal: In 2015, Aaron Bailey is developed to the point where he can take over the program and lead us forward. Whether it’s Year 4 of Beckman or Year 2 of a different coach, 2015 is the goal for a surge. And Mr. Bailey has to be the clear leader of that team. We have to build the entire offense around him. Here’s the key, Mr. Bailey. This program is yours.
Joseph, Jesus and Mary. Help my friend, Mr. Bailey.