Tim Beckman has amassed just six wins in his first two seasons as the Illini head coach, and that means he’s also piled up 18 losses.
And with a lot of losing comes an opportunity for a larger variety of players to play, including those who haven’t yet set foot on campus.
Beckman announced his 2014 recruiting class Wednesday, and he assured the 18 new players that they’ll have a chance to compete for playing time right away.
“I do believe that these players understand that we’re going to play the best at whichever position it might be,” Beckman said. “If he’s a freshman or he’s a senior, you’re going to play the most consistent football player. And if that man is always consistently playing at that level, you’re going to play him. And I hope that players that decide to come to the University of Illinois, regardless of their age, know that they’re going to have a fair chance to compete every day and showcase what they can do, freshman or senior.”
The rankings didn’t provide a very solid evaluation of Beckman’s latest group, with Rivals ranking the Illini 11th out of 12 Big Ten teams. No player on Illinois’ list ranks above a three-star recruit, per Rivals, with the Illini being one of two Big Ten teams — along with Purdue — with an average star-value under three.
But no matter what the rankings say — Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit he doesn’t worry about stars at all — the Illini are excited about their recruits. Rivals ranks Lincolnway East offensive lineman Nick Allegretti as the team’s best. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Allegretti was the 20th-ranked prospect in the state.
Another addition of note is quarterback Chayce Crouch, a three-star signal-caller out of Newark, Ohio. Crouch has Cubit excited, and he joins a quarterback competition to replace four-year starter Nathan Scheelhaase that will be sure to get very interesting as the offseason progresses. Reilly O’Toole backed up Scheelhaase the past two seasons, Aaron Bailey proved a dynamic playmaker in limited action last season, and Wes Lunt will be eligible after transferring in from Oklahoma State. Throw Crouch in the mix, and the Illini are suddenly flush with QBs.
“You look at the teams that are winning and being successful and playing in championships and Super Bowls and stuff like that, the quarterbacks are very, very key to creating those atmospheres and winning,” Beckman said. “And Bill Cubit does an unbelievable job, as good a job as I’ve ever been around any quarterback coach doing. And I really like the players and the attitudes and the accountability and the leadership that we’re getting at that position, and Chayce Crouch just adds to that. We’ll continue to build that position. That position has got to be a strong point of your program”
[RELATED: Illinois National Signing Day coverage]
In addition to Allegretti and Crouch, here's the rest of the Illinois recruiting class:
— Running back: Matt Domer, Hazel Crest, Ill.
— Wide receivers: Geronimo Allison, Tampa, Fla.; Mike Dudek, Naperville, Ill.; Tyrin Stone-Davis, Philadelphia, Pa.; Malik Turner, Springfield, Ill.
— Offensive lineman: Peter Cvijanovic, Concord Township, Ohio
— Defensive linemen: Joe Fotu, San Leandro, Calif.; Paul James III, Miami, Fla.; Tito Odenigbo, Centerville, Ohio; Jihad Ward, Philadelphia, Pa.
— Linebackers: Henry McGraw, Overland Park, Kan.; Carroll Phillips, Miami, Fla.; Austin Roberts, Rice Lake, Wis.; Tre Watson, Tampa, Fla.
— Defensive backs: Julian Hylton, Tinley Park, Ill.; Chris James, Orange, Texas