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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.

Illinigrad December 24th, 2012

Wonderful list Robert. My first Christmas present goes to the seniors on the basketball team. Thanks for your leadership and buying in to the new coaching staff. We see the difference! My second Christmas present is belated. I will give it to Coach Beckman if he can show that he is significantly better than just another mediocre Head Football Coach. And, mediocre is an undeserved superlative for Beckman after the 2012 season.

ATOillini December 24th, 2012

Since it’s Christmas Eve and you finished with Aaron Bailey, I think I’ll just roll with it a bit:
That’s a lie! Aaron Bailey went to Illinois! He won the Heisman Trophy! He saved the lives of every man on that football team, plus his coaches, too!
What a Wonderful Life.

Illinigrad December 25th, 2012

What a Wonderful Life indeed. What a gift it would be to the Illini Nation for Aaron Bailey to be the first Heisman winner!

Harry Lime December 25th, 2012

Well played, ATO. Another red-letter day for the Bailey’s.

Joe John December 25th, 2012

What’s the point of talking about injuries? How does that help the football team? How does that help “pr”? Has “pr” ever won a football game? Robert, just admit you want him to talk about it so you’ll have something to point to (an excuse) for why the team is horrible. You’re back to that fantasy land of yours where you’re trying to grasp at any straw you can find to make it seem like Illinois football doesnt suck as much as the results say it does. When Zook was here, it was out of conference scheduling…now its “not letting the public know about injuries..because if they knew that then they wouldnt be down on Illini football”…Again, do injuries really matter (especially for this team and how bad the team got drilled)? All we heard all season from the Beckman supporters (which there arent many left) was that there wasnt any talent on the field to begin with. Whether Jonathan Brown was on the field or not, the defense was still horrible.

Lets revisit your contract extension talk for Groce after the B1G season.
Its going to be painful.

wizardofoz December 25th, 2012

Robert, welcome back. The Illini b-ball team made me proud against Mizzou, even with the loss. Having read your prior post, I understand why you take this game off. Good for you. But you, too, would have been proud. This is a team I can support, a team I love to watch. My Christmas present comes all year long when I read your posts. You are simply amazing and a great addition to Illini Nation.

Illinigrad December 25th, 2012

wizardofoz nailed it. Illini FB needs a wizard to transform the current disaster into a respectable program.

Steve December 26th, 2012

Can we have one more gift, please? for the pleasant, engaging fans of Illinois sports in general and civility in particular.

An ignore option here, please. I also go to Illinois Loyalty and they have just such a feature and there are several people whose obnoxiousness no longer darkens my doorstep.
I’m a pretty analytical guy, so I’ve seen my share of bad news. And while I don’t enjoy bad news, I don’t blame the news. I believe that there is no such thing as a bad fact. There are facts that you don’t know and facts that you don’t want to know because they hurt your feelings or your sense of self or your rosy view of the world.. But that doesn’t make the fact bad, just not your friend.
However, facts are not intentionally negative, rude, smug or worse. They just are what they are. Fact is that there are muddy puddles in the world. Bratty children splash that muddy water on the rest of the kids. Fact is that there is sand in the world. Jerks throw it in your eyes and laugh. Fact is that there are car alarms. Mean spirited idiots set them off on purpose at 6:00 a.m. just to make you dash out and look.
I’m not opposed to facts. But I am absolutely committed to NOT spending my time with unpleasant people. Do you have or can you get an ignore button? Would make what has been a great Christmas season the absolute best ever.

Harry Lime December 26th, 2012

If ignoring the constant, unwarranted negativity is not an option, I certainly wouldn’t rule out banning. I say that with full realization that some boards have had real issues with this. In general I dislike the practice, but there is a time and a place. This is not spirited discussion and disagreement. Not even close.

bkenny December 26th, 2012

Do we even know if he’s an Illini fan? He never says anything when things go well. I figure he just watches every game, reads every posts and says “how can I rile these guys up today” and then does so. He’s not constructive, just trying to upset people because it makes him feel good.
If you can’t have an ignore option, there should be a way to just delete his posts. Once he realizes that what he says is quickly disappearing, he’ll get it.
Like someone said, I’m all for facts and opposing view points, but this is the definition of trolling.

Joe John December 26th, 2012

Nonsense. Robert is a columnist. I am a reader that makes comments based upon his columns. Nothing more, nothing less.

I dont like excuses for poor performances. I dont even want to hear about mitigating factors. I want results. When the results are not accomplished, I want changes made. I dont want to hear the media trying to shine turds…or make things try to seem not as bad as they are. Thats how Illinois got to being a really bad athletic program..people (or fans) start believing that its “ok” to be this bad…or perhaps that Illinois really “isnt this bad” fact they try to distort the results to make themselves look better than they are…when people (or media) start doing that, then the results themselves dont matter..since the media will paint a narrative regardless..people on this blog are upset Loren Tate’s been covering for Ron Guenther for years…I feel the same way about Robert covering for Illini football for years..Sorry…take off the blinders. Call a spade a spade. Be honest with yourself. Recognize the problems. Fix them. Throwing on window dressing does nothing.

If Tim Beckman wants better PR, try not losing to Indiana on homecoming. Try not losing to Northwestern 50-14. Then try not to chew tobacco or run into officials. But the bottomline is results.

uilaw71 December 26th, 2012

No, Joe John, whoever you are. You are the nonsense. Go find another forum to strut your obviously elevated ego to. You have worn out your wlcome and put Robert’s readership in jeapordy.

illiniranger December 27th, 2012

is anyone else skeptical about Aaron Bailey playing as a FR? i would like to see him RS next year – i don’t see how putting him out there to get killed during what is likely to be another 2-10 season does anything for us. Also, what happens if Bailey starts 8 games and slaps up a passing line like 1000 yds, 4 TDs, 9 INTs? which he probably will because we are awful. do we really want to shake his confidence that badly as a FR? I feel like we rushed Juice to start at QB and that we will have a replay of that scenario with Bailey.
i am also really concerned about Bailey developing. Not because he isn’t capable, but we haven’t developed a QB since Kurt Kittner, and if I’m being honest we haven’t had a QB i’ve really believed in since Jon Buetjer. Think about that – we haven’t had a reliable passer since Jon Beutjer!

Hoppy December 27th, 2012

I agree but does TB have the leash he needs to RS Bailey? If MT gives him the full contract we will be fine. But what if we do RS Bailey next year, that means TB could possibly have him as a RS frosh in a critical third year. Or he could have a sophomore with experience.
Who knows what TB will do though, I hope at least he is given time to get these guys to their junior year.

illiniranger December 27th, 2012

it’s also entirely possible that during Bailey’s recruitment he was told he would not be redshirted. if we promised Bailey he would not redshirt than he shouldn’t be redshirted.
i was extremely frustrated with Beckman this year. if we are an uncompetitive 2-10 again i think he should go. if we are a competitive 2-10 i am ok with him staying for a third year because i think 90% of the good coaches were hired this year. this year was RICH with HC candidates. the year we fired Zook – not so much.
either way, i think the absolute ceiling for this team is 4-8. with the most likely outcome a 2-10 campaign with several more embarrassing losses. i think the Soldier Field game with UW was EXTREMELY premature and shows how little MT understands about the actual game of football. from a marketing and business perspective MT has made many good moves, but from an actual on-field product perspective it has been one mistake after another. and quite frankly, the on-field product is all that matters. facilities, marketing, season ticket sales, booster donations, recruiting, all of those things come AFTER you win. you can’t do it in the absence of winning. i don’t think RG or MT really understands that.

BexleyIllini December 27th, 2012

I think Aaron Bailey will see the field next year in any case. After this season’s dismal performance, TB needs to play every card he has to save his skin. Another 2-10 overall, win-less B1G season would be the kiss of death for TB even if he cleans up his PR gaffes. I will be surprised if he can reach 4-8.

As for basketball, if we get to 13-1 in the pre-conference season, this is far better than expected. If JG can get the team to 9-9 or better in the B1G, it will be a significant accomplishment after last year’s collapse.

ILLINI20 January 4th, 2013

RE the lack of Illini rivalry success. We are at a very serious crossroad. I hope like heck John G gets this thing turned around. If he doesnt it could be decades before we see any sustained success. If he does it will take serious money to keep him. We are in real trouble here in this state. Our economy is in worse shape than 48 other states and if we were a country we would be in worse shape than Afghanastan. Dont think for a second, that our ability to keep up with states like Indiana or Wisconsin that are iether in the black or close to the black, isnt related to MONEY or the lack thereof.