Catching Up With The Football Staff Changes February 19, 2013
Get it? CATCHING up? Nevermind.
So I already covered the Cubit hire. And we talked a little bit about Jim Bridge and Greg Colby. But I haven’t said anything about Gonzo leaving. And today, we found out his replacement. Former Illini receiver Mike Bellamy will be our new wide receiver coach.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about Robert’s Concepts On How Collegiate Football Staffs Are Put Together. I think it will help put the Bellamy hire in perspective.
Similar to basketball, there are assistants who recruit and there are assistants who coach (great teachers). There are very few assistants who are great at both. And if you’re Jay Price, you’re good at neither. ZING.
(Oh god, I already feel awful. My parasympathetic nervous system just kicked into gear. My stomach feels funny. Ten percent chance I let that joke live. I feel like Tom Hanks when he let the volleyball float away. I’M SORRY, PRICE. PRICE I’M SORRY.)
So in both sports, it’s always a balance between hiring recruiters and hiring teachers. Again, there are very few who are good at both, and in football, if you find one, they end up at Alabama or Texas. So coaches at programs like Illinois have to balance their staff between recruiters and game-teachers.
Tim Beckman’s first choice on offense was to go for recruiters. He found West Virginia’s (and then Vanderbilt’s) top recruiter and made him co-OC. He found Urban’s top recruiter at Utah and Florida and made him the other co-OC. We likely had to offer them OC positions to pull them away, so it was a risk, but that was the plan on offense.
It failed. We finished 119th out of 120 teams in total offense. Beatty and Gonzales eventually took turns calling the plays, trying to find anything that would work. Nothing did. And so, after the season, in a slow burn to ease the recruiting blow, Billy Gonzales, Chris Beatty, and offensive line coach Luke Butkus all left Champaign. “But can they coach?” No.
Enter Bill Cubit. Fired as the head coach of Western Michigan, Cubit was brought in to coach-up the offense. Can he recruit? Well, he has a lot of contacts in South Florida, which is where he stocked his Western Michigan teams, but he’s never been known in his career as a recruiter.
Neither has Jim Bridge. Bridge was brought in to replace Butkus. Gone is a first-year coach whose name was going to light up Chicago recruiting circles, and in comes a position coach with many years of experience teaching tight ends and offensive linemen. Just like Cubit, we traded recruiting-focus for coaching-focus. Why can’t Bridge be both? He can, I guess. But if he proves he can do that, he’ll be Florida State’s offensive line coach in 2014.
So with our recruiting-heavy coordinators gone and experienced coaches in place, it’s no surprise that we went the recruiting route with our WR position coach. Mike Bellamy comes from the recruiting side. He actually arrived here last year as the Assistant Director of Player Personnel. His job: to build relationships with high school coaches and to coordinate on-campus recruiting (visits and such). He also used his alumni status to organize the involvement of former players in the program, something Tim Beckman believes is very important.
Now, he’s an assistant coach. The wide receiver coach. Will he be any good? Not sure – this is his first time doing it. Can he recruit? Probably. I’d guess he did enough in his one year as an on-campus recruiter to earn Tim Beckman’s trust that he could do the same off campus.
You know, it’s funny. The one year experiment making Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales coordinators failed. So where did Gonzales end up? Mississippi State figured they could use a recruiter like him, so they hired him as an assistant and stuck him at WR coach. Where did Beatty end up? Wisconsin figured they could use a recruiter like him, so they hired him as an assistant and stuck him at WR coach. Where does Mike Bellamy get his start? WR coach.
Which leaves our staff, in my view, like this:
The Recruiters: Alex Golesh, Steven Clinkscale, and Mike Bellamy.
The Scheme Guys: Bill Cubit, Tim Banks, and Tim Salem.
The Teachers: Jim Bridge, Greg Colby, Mike Ward.
Is Mike Ward a good recruiter and Steve Clinkscale a decent position coach? Probably. These categories aren’t 100%. But I think the way Tim Beckman set up his second staff was intentional. He needed a more experienced offensive staff, so he brought in Cubit and Bridge, but he didn’t want to lose his recruiting edge, so he promoted Bellamy to an off-campus recruiting role.
Hope it works. But not too well. Because then Bellamy will leave for USC.