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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.

Groundhogday February 19th, 2013

Robert, you are wrong about Cubit and Bridge. They are both known as very strong recruiters and made their way up the ranks as recruiters. Bridge has been a TE coach for most of his career: a recruiting position. And Cubit kept getting OC jobs (even when his high major offenses were terrible) because he could recruit Florida.

I don’t think your staff construction approach is completely off, but really everyone on this staff except perhaps Colby, Banks and Salem can recruit, so hiring recruiters remains a high priority.

jsutto01 February 19th, 2013

Long time reader – first time commenter.

Where does Beckman fall on the list – Recruiter, Scheme Guy or Teacher?

Also, thanks for giving me my weekly Illini talking points (and stats to back them up)! You make defending the honor of our beloved Illini a little easier!

Robert February 19th, 2013

Recruiter easily. My post after his press conference was titled “so we hired another Zook.” Can this Zook motivate and build consistency? I still hope for it, but last year makes it doubtful.
Guys like Mike Leach, Gary Patterson, Dana Holgerson, etc – they’re all scheme guys. They were given a head coaching job so they’ll bring their innovative scheme with them.

Beckman was never that guy. But he was a decent recruiter for Ohio State and Oklahoma State before getting the Toledo job (where he led the MAC in recruiting). The idea is for him to find some innovative schemes and then go recruit the guys he needs to make them go.

illiniranger February 19th, 2013

i would agree that TB is a recruiter. i also would say that that is the worst of the three types that you want. you know the two top factors in recruiting? winning and location in that order. you can’t do anything about #2. a good coach with a scheme and the ability to teach it will begin to win games, and wins will bring recruits. you may not blow up recruiting rankings (Iowa, Wiscy, etc.) but a lot of that ties into location. there just aren’t a lot of good football players in Wiscy, for example, and that depresses their ability to maximize on their wins.
this was also Zook’s problem. people point to the fact that over the last few years we lead everyone but Alabama in first and second round picks. to me that’s embarrassing. all that talent and all we could manage was a couple 6-6 years at the end of Zook’s tenure?

KJKobs February 19th, 2013

And just our luck – reports tonight that Clinkscale is leaving the program (possibly heading to Cincy)

Illinigrad February 20th, 2013

We just need to win some games. Beckman can do whatever he wants but if the team does not win then it will be time to start over (again).

illiniranger February 20th, 2013

i like who we have hired thus far but man, another assistant coach leaves the program? that’s a good sign when you go 10-2 and they are leaving to step up into a position of greater responsibility. that is a really bad sign when you went 2-10 and they are all making lateral moves.
oh, and we play Cincy next year. I’m sure they won’t have a competitive advantage with one of our former coaches standing on the sideline…

BexleyIllini February 20th, 2013

We really need basketball to continue on its upward trajectory as football is clearly a mess.

illiniguy February 20th, 2013

Clinkscale is gone, and to a program that isn’t really even a BCS level school anymore in Cincinnati.

GrogsBBQPepperoni February 20th, 2013

Illinois football right now is like watching a bridge being rebuilt. You don’t really need daily progress updates, you can’t really tell how it’s going to turn out and it looks like a complete disaster in its current state. But maybe, just maybe, it will actually take you somewhere someday and look good when it’s done. Or maybe it will be badly flawed and they’ll have to rebuild it again in 3 years.

NJJ87 February 20th, 2013

Rebuilt? More like watching a bridge collapse in slow motion. Everyone with the ability to land another job has done so, rather than wait 9 more months to be sent packing when this staff is shown the door. Hopefully MT will be able to identify and land a Big Ten caliber football coach in his 2nd try, because he failed miserably this time.

illinitrueblue February 21st, 2013


Any insight as to why Clinkscale would leave now? Was he pushed or did he jump?

Thx for the blog, BTW. It’s the best.