Debate it: Will Bill Cubit fix Illinois' offense?

To put it mildly, the Illinois offense struggled last season under co-coordinators Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales. It’s Bill Cubit’s unit now, and the veteran coach has had success on various stops across the nation. Will it continue in Champaign, and as soon as this season? BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart and Brent Yarina address the Illini offense in this post, and they’ll continue to do so throughout the spring football season. All of our spring football coverage is here, and the 2013 Spring Football Schedule is here.

BTN provides live coverage of Illinois’ spring game at 9 p.m. ET Friday on BTN/BTN2Go only.

Let the debate begin.

Question: Will new OC Bill Cubit fix the offense?

Tom: I think Bill Cubit is just the guy to fix this oh-so-sick Illinois offense. The 59-year-old Cubit is everything departed co-coordinators Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales weren’t: A veteran, sage mind who has succeeded at every level of the game. Cubit often had strong offenses in his eight seasons as head coach at Western Michigan. He also has been a coordinator at Missouri, Rutgers and Stanford. The man knows football—and he knows how to build schemes around the personnel he has. There is talent in Champaign, beginning with QB Nathan Scheelhaase. And I like RBs Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young.

There also are some promising receivers, and I love the collection of TEs that includes Jon Davis and Evan Wilson. The big key will be the line, which was hampered by injury and inexperience en route to a dreadful season. The group has to get better with experience and improved health. And having former Cubit Western Michigan o-line coach A.J. Ricker running the unit will help, too. Will the Fighting Illini have one of the four or five best offenses in the Big Ten in 2013? No, but the attack will improve enough to make Illinois competitive this fall.

Just how bad was Illinois’ offense last year? Here you go:

2012 Offense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 3560 (121)
Passing Yards: 2026 (113)
Rushing Yards: 1534 (104)
Points per game: 16.7 (122)
Yards per game: 296.7 (122)
Touchdowns: 23 (120)
Field Goals: 8 (111)

Brent: No. I’m not sure there’s an OC who can “fix” this offense right away. Look at the offensive line and the names the Illini are rolling out at the skill positions, and it’s easy to see how they averaged 16.7 points last season. To make matters worse, Illinois doesn’t have a consistent quarterback – Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O’Toole have shown that – and we all know every good offense needs a reliable guy under center. One may argue, but, Illinois returns its leading passer (Nathan Scheelhaase), rusher (Donovonn Young) and receiver (Ryan Lankford), and they’d be right.

However, Scheelhaase’s passing yards (1,361) and touchdown passes (4) ranked last among Big Ten starters – he did miss a few games due to injury – while Lankford’s receiving yards (469) and Young’s rushing touchdowns (3) ranked last among No. 1 Big Ten receivers and running backs. Young’s rushing yards (571) weren’t much better, either, ranking 11th among primary running backs (Michigan’s Fitz Toussaint, 514). Knowing all this, why should we expect a sudden turnaround? Maybe everything comes together and a bunch of players have breakout seasons – TE Jon Davis, maybe? – but I see the “fix” coming in Year 2 or 3.

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