Spring Preview: Illini have work to do

Year One under Tim Beckman was difficult. A lack of depth was a major issue in the transition from the Ron Zook era. But, Beckman didn’t stand pat, making wholesale staff changes that include a new offensive coordinator along with new offensive and defensive line coaches. This spring has been about developing chemistry, improving horrid special teams and developing a winning attitude—among other things–as Beckman continues to put his stamp on the team.

BTN provides live coverage of Illinois’ spring game at 9 p.m. ET Friday on BTN/BTN2Go only. Track the Illini football chatter on our BTN.com Illinois Connect page.

BACK IN 2012 …

Record: 2-10 overall; 0-8 Big Ten

Day Date Opponent Time TV Result
Sat. Sep. 1 vs. Western Michigan 12:00 PM ET  ESPNU W 24 – 7
Sat. Sep. 8 at Arizona State 10:30 PM ET  ESPN L 14 – 45
Sat. Sep. 15 vs. Charleston Southern 12:00 PM ET  BTN W 44 – 0
Sat. Sep. 22 vs. Louisiana Tech 8:00 PM ET  BTN/BTN2 L 24 – 52
Sat. Sep. 29 vs. Penn State 12:00 PM ET  ESPN L 7 – 35
Sat. Oct. 6 at Wisconsin 3:30 PM ET  ABC/ESPN2 L 14 – 31
Sat. Oct. 13 at 25 Michigan 3:30 PM ET  ABC/ESPN L 0 – 45
Sat. Oct. 27 vs. Indiana 12:00 PM ET  BTN/BTN2 L 17 – 31
Sat. Nov. 3 at 6 Ohio State 3:30 PM ET  ESPN L 22 – 52
Sat. Nov. 10 vs. Minnesota 3:30 PM ET  BTN/BTN2 L 3 – 17
Sat. Nov. 17 vs. Purdue 3:30 PM ET  BTN/BTN2 L 17 – 20
Sat. Nov. 24 at Northwestern 12:00 PM ET  BTN/BTN2 L 14 – 50

KEY LOSSES

Offense: C Graham Pocic; T Hugh Thornton

Defense: E Michael Buchanan; T Glenn Foster; CB Justin Green; CB Terry Hawthorne; T Akeem Spence; LB Ashante Williams

OUTLOOK ON OFFENSE

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)

Where to being? This unit was an absolute mess in 2012. As a result, Tim Beckman fired co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty and saw co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales leave to coach receivers at Mississippi State. Beckman hired Bill Cubit, the former head coach at Western Michigan, to take over as coordinator.

What’s it mean? QB Nathan Scheelhaase will be working with fourth coordinator as an Illini for an offense that ranked 11th in the Big Ten in rushing (127.8 ypg); 11th in passing (168.8 ypg); last overall (296.7 ypg); last in scoring (16.7 ppg).

The line is a major area of emphasis. Injuries and youth were factors for the attack’s struggles. Some playmakers are needed at receiver. Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young are a nice RB duo. Also, the turnovers must stop. Illinois had 30 last year, 11th in the Big Ten.

OUTLOOK ON DEFENSE

2012 Defense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 4656 (37)
Passing Yards: 2324 (8)
Rushing Yards: 2332 (89)
Points per game: 32.1 (95)
Yards per game: 388.0 (55)
Touchdowns: 49 (92)
Field Goals: 11 (23)

There is work to do, but not as much as the offense for d-coordinator Tim Banks. With players like CBs Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green gone, the secondary lacks experience and will be a big emphasis for a defense that ranked 10th in the Big Ten (387.6 ypg) overall and 11th in scoring (32.1 ppg) in 2012.

The new line has work to do, as the unit is in transition, with DE Michael Buchanan; DT Akeem Spence; DT Glenn Foster all gone. And LB Ashante Williams will be difficult to replace along the front seven. LB Jonathan Brown will have to be a star and leader for what could be a good linebacking corps.

2013 SCHEDULE

Day Date Opponent
Sat. Aug. 31 vs. Southern Illinois
Sat. Sep. 7 vs. Cincinnati
Sat. Sep. 14 vs. Washington*
Sat. Sep. 28 vs. Miami (OH)
Sat. Oct. 5 at 25 Nebraska
Sat. Oct. 19 vs. Wisconsin
Sat. Oct. 26 vs. Michigan State
Sat. Nov. 2 at Penn State
Sat. Nov. 9 at Indiana
Sat. Nov. 16 vs. 3 Ohio State
Sat. Nov. 23 at Purdue
Sat. Nov. 30 vs. 17 Northwestern

***

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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