It was kind of a scramble this week, and I appreciate Brandon Birkhead from the SBNation Illinois site The Champaign Room for getting these answers back to us in a quick manner!
What do the Illinois faithful think of Love Smith in Year two?
Some people are frustrated with the lack of progress on offense, and some fans who are also Chicago Bears fans didn’t like the hire much to begin with. I think most realize that the program was at rock bottom when he took over, and that this is really year one for the Lovie Smith era.
The team started 10 true freshman last week. It will take awhile to recover from the Tim Beckman era, but fans were told that same thing about Tim Beckman coming off the Ron Zook era. Right now it’s wait and see with Lovie Smith, but Illini fans are starting to lose faith in the football team ever getting to be competitive in the Big Ten again.
Illinois is behind Ohio State, Michigan, and Minnesota in Big Ten championships, but has had only four since 1963. Why isn’t Illinois better and more consistent in winning football?
We hire bad coaches and recruit poorly, which leads to losing. We then have to hire a new coach but can’t get a top one because we lose. We then have a bad coach who can’t recruit well so we lose. And the cycle continues and continues.
But seriously, I think it comes down to that the midwest, and the state of Illinois specifically, isn’t filled up with great talent for football, so they must extend their recruiting search to outside states where competition goes up. It’s tough to recruit against other Big Ten schools like Ohio State and Michigan when you are Illinois in those areas. It’s sort of a catch 22 where we aren’t winning because we don’t recruit well, and we don’t recruit well because we don’t win.
To fix that cycle you need to hire a fantastic coach like Wisconsin did with Barry Alvarez or Iowa with Hayden Fry, but Illinois has not been able to find that person. Is Lovie Smith that guy? It remains to be seen.
Who do you think Nebraska should hire for a new athletic director?
I’m not really sure, all I know is the next guy they bring in better nail the next hire for head ball coach. I know Trev Alberts has actually been a pretty good AD for Nebraska-Omaha and went to Nebraska-Lincoln, so maybe him?
Or just embrace chaos and hire Bo Pelini.
Chayce Crouch has the worst rating of any quarterback in the Big Ten, worse than our Tanner Lee who has thrown nine interceptions, three of which have been pick sixes. How is this possible?
Well our offense is really, really, really, awful. The offensive line has done no favors to anyone, and when that unit isn’t working, nothing really can. Chayce Crouch himself though has struggled with his accuracy and with getting the ball out under pressure, and he’s under pressure often. He is more of a running QB and everyone knew that going into the year, but the team has yet to figure out how to best use his mobility.
Crouch was pulled last week for Jeff George Jr. who went 11-21 for 211 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions, but most of that was in “garbage time”. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a lot of George Jr. in the Nebraska game, and Illinois could even switch between Crouch and George Jr. throughout the game.
Are your cornerbacks good at catching the ball or not?
Most of our CBs are really young and untested in their ball catching skills. Senior Jaylen Dunlap who has been a solid player for Illinois is still sitting on 0 interceptions for his Illinois career, so maybe he can finally break that against Tanner Lee?
The young Illini defense will continue to play well, but again the lackluster Illinois offense will struggle to move the ball causing the Illini defense to tire near the end of the game. Nebraska also has a struggling offense, but I think it’s a superior unit. Nebraska pulls away late in a sloppy game 27-13.