Slapdash January 24, 2013
When you don’t know what to write about, just start writing.
2-3 then 4-3
That’s where I’ve settled on our tourney path. Yes, that means 8-10, but if it’s 2-3 then 4-3, that means we beat two of Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Minnesota. Which would give us two more solid wins to add to Gonzaga, Butler, and Ohio State. Which would be enough to get us in the tournament even if we lost our first round Big Ten Tournament game.
We’d be 22-12 at that point with 5 solid wins. Unless 2009/10 happens again (Minnesota makes a run to the BTT final and steals our tourney spot, five or six already-in teams lose in their conference tournaments and our bubble spot is stolen, etc.), then we’re in at 22-12 (8-10). And we’re even more in at 23-12 (8-10). And probably a lock at 24-12 (8-10).
But we’ll deal with the BTT implications when we get there. For now, give me 2-3 and then 4-3.
Which means win two of these five:
at Michigan State
And then four of these seven:
at Ohio State
Oh man, it just fully hit me. This whole season is going to come down to the game at Iowa, isn’t it? If you’re like me – someone who arrived at Illinois just after the Flyin’ Illini and then saw your college years get Bruce Pearl’d – you abhor the idea of the entire season coming down to the game at Iowa.
DJ, please go into a slump again. And then bust out of it with 31 points at Iowa.
Bridge Oughta Deliver Try
As I’m sure you’ve heard, the new offensive line coach was announced yesterday: Jim Bridge from North Carolina State. He was Tom O’Brien’s OL/TE coach at Boston College and then at NC State. With O’Brien getting fired, Bridge was let go, and now he’s our guy. And, yes, there’s a connection. Bridge was tight ends coach at Bowling Green when Tim Beckman was defensive coordinator. There’s always a connection.
What kind of situation does Bridge walk into? Oh, only the worst pass-pro and running numbers in the Big Ten with the top two linemen having graduated. No big deal. How much will having an experienced coach like Bridge running the show improve our line play? In my opinion, less than you think. It’s all about the roster.
Some background first. Straight from my brain, Four Steps To Building A Great College Offensive Line:
- Recruit body types. Tackles generally need long arms and quick feet. Guards need powerful drive (and, in a pulling scheme, need to be able to run like a fullback). Centers need to be your smartest, understand-what-the-defense-is-doing-est interior lineman.
- Redshirt everyone. Offensive linemen are best in their third, fourth, and especially fifth years. So make sure every lineman gets a redshirt and at least another year of lifting and learning the scheme.
- Don’t change the scheme. When they’re scrawny true freshmen to when their fifth year seniors, have them running the same blocking assignments over and over and over and over and over and over.
- Never have more than 3 seniors starting, and never less than two. Redshirt a junior if you have to, I don’t care. Just set it up so that each line has experienced fifth-year seniors as well as younger guys learning the ropes and getting ready to take over. Seniors lead and build the next senior leaders.
How did Ron Zook do with this list?
Well, an F on the first part. Quick, name the last true offensive tackle we recruited. Jeff Allen? Nope – a guard playing tackle. No, really, he started at left guard for the Kansas City Chiefs this year. Ryan Palmer? Maybe. Didn’t really blossom until his fifth year. Michael Heitz? Better at guard. Hugh Thornton? Currently being tried at guard at the Senior Bowl.
My point: Zook didn’t really recruit any true tackles. To the point where #2 comes into play. Linemen are better in their third, fourth, and especially fifth years? Well then why did we force Michael Heitz and Simon Cvijanovic into action as redshirt freshman in 2011? You’re correct – it’s because Zook got an F on #1.
The third point? We’ve changed the blocking scheme four of the last five years. F minus minus.
The fourth point? Well, it’s true – we never had a bunch of seniors all starting the same year. But that’s mostly because we were forcing younger guys into early action.
So yeah, when Luke Butkus took over his very first college offensive line, he was left with two seniors he had to play out of position and young guys who just weren’t there yet. Hard to blame any coach who inherits something like that.
But I will. I’m really hoping Jim Bridge instills more fire into this line. Last year we’d come out of the gate fairly solid – our opening drive was typically our best drive of the game. But then the fire faded. And things would go wrong. And it would look like we were barely trying by the third quarter.
That’s what I want from Bridge. Try. I want to see more effort. Ooh, and I also want to see a completely different line on the first day of spring practice. New offensive coordinator with a new offensive scheme and a new offensive line coach? Plus two seniors who played nearly all five positions last year both gone? This is as unknown as any Illini offensive line in a long time.
I honestly have no idea. Best guess, if Corey Lewis is healthy, is Cvijanovic-Heitz-Feldmeyer-Karras-Lewis. That’s the most experienced offensive line. But honestly, Bridge might want Karras at tackle and Hill at Center. Everything is wide open at this point.