Beckman looking to change the perception of Illinois

Beckman looking to change the perception of Illinois
July 24, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Tim Beckman knows the career arcs of a pair of fellow ex-Toledo coaches. One brought a program to national prominence, another is arguably one of the top five college coaches of all time.

He also knows he's not Gary Pinkel or Nick Saban. But after a disastrous first year at Illinois, Beckman may not be afforded the same chance to grow a program, as his name has already popped up on prognosticators' "hot seat" watch lists.

"We have the plan in place, and we're going to go with that plan," Beckman said. "We'd like to be successful as quickly as we can, we're seeing things being successful off the field, now we have to correlate that on to the field."

Big Ten media day brings plenty of coachspeak and robotic positivity, even for a team that didn't just lose nine consecutive games, but wasn't competitive in the majority of them.

"I think we're looking forward to this year. If anything, the biggest change is that we definitely should all have a chip on our shoulder," quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase said. "I think last year, from everybody, we didn't get what we wanted. From a coaching standpoint, from a players standpoint, we all left that season saying, 'We've got to do more, we've got to find a way to be able to produce more.'

"… It is a different vibe now, and it should be a different vibe when we get out there on that field. I'm excited. That's something that makes me excited as a player, when you have a bunch of guys that are hungry, that are ready to prove something. That's good to be a part of."

[MORE: Northwestern's expectations are even higher]

Illinois brought in a new offensive coordinator, hiring ex-Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit. The team hopes to be healthier than last year, when injuries ravaged a team already thin on depth. Scheelhaase is Beckman's No. 1 quarterback, and sees a team less fractured than last year.

"We can't be an offense and a defense and a special teams," he said. "We've got to be one unit: the University of Illinois Fighting Illini going out there each and every Saturday and competing."

Illinois will be picked to finish last in the Leaders Division in most preseason polls, although are a couple of positives regarding the direction of Beckman's program. Chief among them are the two quarterbacks coming to campus this fall: Aaron Bailey and Wes Lunt.

Bailey, a four-star recruit from Bolingbrook, was one of the biggest commits in Beckman's class of 2013. Lunt, a native of Rochester, Ill. and a four-star recruit in 2012, transferred from Oklahoma State to Illinois and will be eligible to play in 2014.

There's still a whole season to be played before either of those players may have a chance to make an impact in Champaign. But Beckman's hoping their presence helps change the perception of Illinois, and that a shift in that area will pay dividends down the road.

"Wes Lunt is an Illinois native, and any time you can get a quality football player from this state, I think that's going to be beneficial to all of us," Beckman said. "I hope that the young men that are going to be the future of the Illini, we want to recruit the state and we want the state to understand that this is their institution, the state-supported institution, and we'd love our players to stay home."