As most of you well know, Tim Beckman has been the coach of the Fighting Illini since 2012, and I assume most of you know that Beckman has one B1G win in those two years. However that does not sum up all that Beckman has done.
See, in college football, the recruits are the ones that play the game, but it's the coaches who acquire the players. Therefore, the any coach in the first few years of a new job must work with what the previous coach left him.
Coach for the Illini from 2005-11, Ron Zook left the program after a season that started with six wins and ended with six losses. What followed after that is where Beckman begins (If I had Photoshop skills…). The team that Beckman inherited actually looked pretty good. It had just gotten to a bowl game, retained its talented quarterback and had a few NFL draft prospects as well.
There were just two little problems: the good players didn't buy into Beckman's system, and after those good players was a depth chart and a future that looked bleaker than Purdue's. The last few years of Zook saw recruiting classes that didn't work. Not only was there a lack of top-end talent that Zook had brought before, but as time progressed, the players left the program. Grades, off-field issues, and what have you -- greater than 50% of the players from those last Zook classes did not make it to graduation. It's shocking, but that's why he was fired. So by the time Beckman began coaching in Urbana-Champaing, not only did the Illini not have talent, they had no upperclassmen, and in college football, those are just as important for a rebuilding program.
The first two years of the Beckman Era have been spent fixing the problems what the Zooker left behind. I'm not saying that atones for all of Beckman's sins, but in my book, it gives him a partial hall-pass. When looking at Beckman's Illinois career, you have to take into account what he started with. How are you supposed to build a 6-layer wedding cake when you work in a bakery with rusted pans, a few old eggs, and two cups of flour? I wouldn't expect you to be able to do it. Beckman has had to turn out cupcakes, because that's all he could.
However, Beckman has no more excuses. The first player he ever personally recruited, linebacker Mason Monheim, is just now becoming a junior. The team has now made the final transition from Zook to Beckman, and what you see from now on will be the true indicator of Beckman's coaching talent. I'll be the first to admit that if Year 1 was what we fully judged him on, he should of been fired, but that is not how college football, and life, works thankfully. First impressions are not
I'll be honest, I don't currently think that Beckman is the one to take us to the Rose Bowl. We're looking for a Messiah, but right now we only have a prophet. Beckman is patching holes and making way for the next guy. Anybody that followed Zook was going to have a mountain to climb, Beckman just happened to be that guy. I do believe though that as long as the Fighting Beckmans win five or more games that Beckman should remain coach. Firing him may very well reset the entire cycle all over again, causing more problems which can be avoided. And then from there he could change my mind about the whole Rose Bowl opportunity.
I'll be intently watching Beckman's actions this year. Does he make enough good decisions? Can he win a few close games at the B1G level? Does he improve on recruiting? It all factors into his future, and the Illini's. And the next guys.