Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, April 19, 2013

The Illinois offense was broken in 2012. How bad was it? The Fighting Illini 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) during a 2-10 debut season for Tim Beckman that saw the Illini finish 0-8 in the Big Ten.

So, Beckman fired co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty and saw co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales leave to coach receivers at Mississippi State.

Enter Bill Cubit.

Cubit, 59, is a sage offensive mind who most was head coach the last eight seasons at Western Michigan, where he went 51-47 overall and 36-27 in the MAC with three bowl trips. In fact, his 2008 team beat Illinois. And in 2007, Cubit coached Western Michigan by Iowa in the regular-season finale. The loss kept the Hawkeyes out of a bowl game after a six-season run.

Cubit also has been coordinator at Missouri (2000); Rutgers (2001-02); Stanford (2003-04). If Illinois is to end a nine-game losing skid that it brings into 2013-along with a 14-game Big Ten skein that dates to a 41-20 win at Indiana on October 8, 2011-Cubit must get the offense in gear. I caught up with Cubit a few days after the Illini?s spring game.

[RELATED: Watch Illini game on BTBN2Go | Illini game notes | Video highlights  ]

Q: What do you like about quarterbacks Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O?Toole?

Illini 2012 Passing Leaders
Player POS Att Comp Yds Pct TD
N. Scheelhaase QB 246 149 1361 60.6 4
R. O'Toole QB 87 65 564 74.7 6

A: They are both pretty smart. This system is pretty complicated. They struggled a bit early. We knew it was gonna be a long haul. But they picked it up. Now, it?s a matter of if we can get it done talent-wise. Both of them got better in their technique. I?m not saying it was poor, but it wasn?t very pretty.

I thought Nate was throwing the ball a lot faster. I thought in the spring game, he did a good job of getting the ball out with a little bit more arm strength. Route-running was not a big priority here. I think we made some grounds in the passing game and in knowing concepts.

Q: How is the line coming together?

A: I think the line got a bad rap. The style of offense last year was a lot of east and west. I don?t think the personnel was good for that. Our backs are more north-south guys, so I think we?ll be better. That will help the line. I also think the quarterback was holding the ball too long, causing sacks. So our big thing was to get rid of the ball quickly. I think that will help them. We are thin. But we have enough guys, I think. If we don?t get injured, we will be OK.

The Corey Lewis kid is huge in having him back. He?s a sixth-year guy who has some experience. He had a lot of issues with his knee (five surgeries). Hopefully we can keep him healthy. I think (guard Ted) Karras is a good player. The center, (Alex) Hill, could be a good player. He has lost a lot of weight and probably needs to lose more. But he has a chance. The left tackle Simon (Cvijanovic), we have to get him more comfortable, but I think he has a chance.

Q: Do you like the tight ends?

Illini 2012 Receiving Leaders
Player POS Rec Yds TD Avg
Donovonn Young RB 38 172 1 4.5
Ryan Lankford WR 37 469 5 12.7
Darius Millines WR 32 319 0 10.0
Josh Ferguson RB 29 251 0 8.7
Spencer Harris WR 21 252 2 12.0
View All Players

A: There is a kid (Jon) Davis who is hurt, who I think can be pretty good if he can stay healthy. He has a knee injury. (Evan) Wilson also has a chance but they haven?t been using the tight end in the passing game. He?s a 6-7 kid with a chance. And there?s also Matt LaCosse who is a 6-5 guy who is a former quarterback so I think those three, you have a chance to be decent.

Q: How would be describe the offense?

A: Really multiple with the personnel. Try to get rid of the ball quickly. Don?t hold the ball. More down-hill runs. We could be in a three-tight end, one-wideout set on one down and on the next play be in five-wides. I don?t think we have a Jordan White-type guy (Western Michigan receiver) who you can count on all the time. I haven?t seen it yet. We may have. But I haven?t seen it yet.

Q: Do you like the running backs?

Illini 2012 Rushing Leaders
Player POS Att Yds TD Avg
Donovonn Young RB 131 571 3 4.4
Josh Ferguson RB 75 312 0 4.2
Nathan Scheelhaase QB 125 303 4 2.4
Dami Ayoola RB 26 117 2 4.5
Jon Davis TE 21 102 1 4.9

A: Yes. (Josh) Ferguson has a lot of ability. He has to stay healthy. He?s a smaller guy, so we have to be really careful with how we use him. (Donovonn) Young has some potential. He is used to the east-west runs and now is more north-south which fits his style better. But that?s a year?s reps that they really didn?t have. So, understanding the powers, the zones, knowing where to cut and the feel up front, that?s gonna take a little bit of time and was an issue in the spring. Those two kids I think are good enough. We have enough where I think we can move the ball.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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