The Illini Week roles on and this time I am able to publish this post with the help of the other OTE writers. It's pretty simple: I ask a few questions, they write down whatever they want. Pretty easy.
To make it slightly more interesting, we incorporate different food items and recipes to help add some extra flavor to the post. We also try to follow a theme. I'm choosing to follow a very basic theme -- one that has probably been done before and will be done again -- the Food of Illinois (the state, not the team)!!
Also, as babaoreally said last week in the Purdue Potluck, we have a lot of writers and this post grew to be incredibly and monotonously long. Breaking all the answers into two different posts is a good idea, so make sure to check back in Thursday to hear more discussion about the Illini.
And, thank you to all the OTE writers for the answers.
The Horseshoe Sandwich -- The traditional Horseshoe Sandwich is bread on bottom, then meat (usually ground beef, but whatever form of protein works), then top it with a trashcan full of fries, then a dump truck's load of golden cheese sauce. They're delicious for the first half of the meal, a struggle to finish off, and if you ever make it to the last bite you will never forget its effects on your insides. Let me make this translucently clear: if you eat a low-quality Horseshoe Sandwich, IT CAN STOP YOUR HEART. I know because it happened to me; I don't mean I actually had a hard attack, but I could actually feel years of my life being sweated away. Either way, you should try one once in your life. The best version I have found is located at D'arcy's Pint in Springfield, IL (this is not the one that nearly killed me).
How does this recipe pertain to the Illini? I'm not really sure. I just know that the Horseshoe is really Illinoisian, and so are the Illini.
The Tim Beckman Era has had a rough start. Most seem to believe that anything less than a trip to a bowl game means the end of the line. Is it reasonable that Beckman (or any coach for that matter) is expected to turn a floundering team into a contender in three years? How long should it take for that turnaround to happen?
Mike Jones: If Illinois fans are saying bowl game or bust this season they need to put down the salvia and step away from the pipe very very slowly. There isn't a bright line rule but I think a college football coach should have his team making significant improvements in the third year and if they're being made, he should return for a fourth season. Beckman has problems in year three. He has to replace Scheelhaase, the entire wide-receiver corps and has a nasty schedule. The non-con isn't anything treacherous, though I don't see them beating Washington in Seattle. They also have the privilege of playing Purdue in early October and could very well be 4-1 at one point in the season. But who are they going to beat after that? Minnesota? Iowa? Penn State? Northwestern? I'm skeptical. If they can make it to 5 wins I think Beckman should get another year. If they lose out...well...I think he's ran his course.
Green Akers: Maybe it's not reasonable, but it's the college football world as we know it. The stakes are too high to let your seat-occupiers and donation check-writers get too disgruntled. How long it takes is all a matter of context. Gus Malzahn turned Auburn around quick because, in spite of their post-Newton cratering, there was still a boatload of talent on the roster. At Illinois...less so, and I think that's got to be accounted for. Ideally, he'd get a chance to get his first real class (last year's freshmen) to their junior year, when everyone should be acclimated and experienced.
But let's be clear, it's not like Beckman's expected to make the CFP this fall or he gets the boot; the bar isn't set very high if it's bowl or bust. The schedule this year includes freebies in Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Texas State. Sure, the conference schedule has 3 sure losses (@Neb, @Wisc, @OSU), but it won't be impossible to scrape 3 wins from the rest of that lineup.
C4B: In most places, it's not reasonable, but that's the expectation anyway. Illinois has enough football tradition that it's not a terribly unreasonable expectation, but might be beyond the reach of this year's team anyway. A fair turnaround time is probably in the 4-5 year range, but unless you've got some hope that that is the absolute maximum time it will take, you may not stick around that long (witness the much less tradition rich Indiana coaching carousel).
Aaron Yorke: In a perfect, rational world, I would give every college football coach at least four years to work his magic. That's how long it takes a player to move through the system. If you judge a coach after only two or three years, you're judging him while he's coaching a lot of players that he didn't recruit. By that logic, even four years might not be enough for a fair assessment, but in college football, urgency beats fairness like Ohio State beats cupcakes.
It wouldn't be too much to ask for Tim Beckman to go from four to six wins in 2014, but the schedule isn't set up to make that easy. There's a game at Washington on the non-conference slate, and the Big Ten road trips are brutal. Illinois will probably need to win six of seven home games to get to 6-6. Can the Illini beat two out of these three home opponents: Minnesota, Iowa, and Penn State? That's what the administration is asking Beckman to do to get to a bowl game.
As for how long the turnaround should happen: It depends on the school. Turning around Illinois is going to take longer than turning around a struggling powerhouse like USC or Tennessee. It's just easier to recruit at places where you have more fans, resources, and tradition.
Jesse Collins: I am of the mindset that you should at least be back to where the school was before you came in, by Year 3 (so bowling). Sure, there were going to be bumps going from the Zooker to Becks, but you also have to assume that the quality of the program can get back to a sustained 'bowl eligible' point by now. In this era of CFB, you need to win 6 games, and it's not like you're basically playing two FCS teams or anything (I know, North Texas is now FBS, but whatever). With that said, at this point, Becks should have this year and next to get back to a bowl. Outside of complete ineptitude for a third year running, he should get a chance to defend himself without, "but, but, but ZOOK LEFT NOTHING." That seems reasonable enough.
Ray Ransom: At most institutions, 4-5 years is considered the norm for a coach that exhibits some metrics that indicate eventual success is on the horizon (key wins, offensive production, upwardly trending recruiting rankings, etc.). 2-3 is on the short side, 6-7 is on the long side. It's all about the first recruiting class going through the program to provide a long-term projection.
Here at Rutgers, we believe in the 100-year plan. That's right folks, we play the long game. We don't buy the temporal bias that you bumpkins and tiddlywinks do. We like to think along the space-time continuum. Greg Schiano and Frank Gordon are comprised of the same primordial matter that burst forth from the original Big Bang. Thus, they are functionally the same coach and the 1906-2006 turnaround was right on schedule. We firmly expect and are quantum excited to see coach Flood get things in order by around 3012.
Gooey-Butter Cake -- This desert was accidentally created when somebody from St. Louis used twice as much butter in a cake recipe. What arose from the oven was a very sweet, very tasty, very heavy version of a light-colored brownie. However, this is not technically a Food of Illinois. I decided to use this item because there are people in Illinois that are secluded from the majority of the population, namely anyone living further than three hours from Chicagoland. Growing up in Western Southern Illinois, I always related myself to the city of St. Louis. It's a historic city that has some hidden gems of awesomeness, but the media there was always too interested in the Mizzou and seemed to forget that some people cared about the Illini, just how JUCO's are partially forgotten by the college football world.
Beckman is bringing in JUCO's to patch a few of the holes on the Illini defense, which was the weakest part of the team by far. JUCO's lack the long-term reward but are able to help at a more immediate level. The best JUCO in this recent hall for Beckman was 4-star DT Jihad Ward who ranked in the Top 5 of JUCO's in the nation. Does your team have any memorable JUCO's from years past?
Mike Jones: A few notable ones are Brad Banks, Amari Spievey and Marshal Yanda but here is my personal favorite:
Green Akers: Dantonio's been verrrry selective about using JUCOs, but there's been some successes amongst them like Fou Fonoti and Anthony Rashad White. Miguel Machado should be in contention to join the OL rotation this fall. The previous MSU coach, John L. Smith, was far more enamored with JUCOs, and to be fair, that did get talents like Devin Thomas and Ervin Baldwin that he otherwise wouldn't have secured. But his overuse of guys with checkered pasts probably contributed to the team's general dysfunction during his tenure (slapping his own face in a press conference was a symptom, not a cause). It's an uncommon coach, like Bill Snyder, who can build a stable and successful team on these dudes, but if you can make it work, more power to you.
C4B: Probably, but I don't really pay much attention to our football recruiting. It's likely we've got or will have a JUCO transfer starting on defense this year, but considering the state of our defense, I'm not sure that's a boon. A quick scan of the roster suggests that top cornerback Tim Bennett, and solid linebackers David Cooper and Steven Funderburk, are the most likely starters to come to Indiana through the JUCO route, so maybe it isn't quite as bad as I feared. Still, trying to rebuild a defense is a struggle, and likely not a 1 year fix, either.
Aaron Yorke: Penn State nearly had a JUCO starting quarterback last season, but Tyler Ferguson was beat out by freshman Christian Hackenberg during summer practices and soon after left the team. I can't remember any other notable JUCO players who played football for PSU, but some of our commenters have a much better memory than I do. As for basketball, Travis Parker was a nice find for Ed DeChellis who was instrumental in the 2005-06 team upsetting a top-10 Illinois squad and qualifying for the NIT. More recently, the team added Devin Foster as a JUCO transfer. He could see some serious time at point guard in 2015 and allow D.J. Newbill to work off the ball like he did last season.
Jesse Collins: Nebraska loves themselves some Juco kids. Stanley Jean-Baptiste - he of recently drafted status - was a Juco kid. Same with Lavonte David. In fact, there are quite a few Juco kids peppered throughout Nebraska history, and I think that there is nothing wrong at all with filling in a few holes to make up for misses on the recruiting trail. Oh, and I think people are going to be really familiar with our latest Juco star in Randy Gregory. Nebraska really missed on recruiting the DL during this transition to the B1G, but between a focused approach and some help with instant impact Juco kids, it worked out pretty great.
Ray Ransom: We're very excited to have Jamil Pollard join the Scarlet Knights from the team in pennsylvania. Jamil brings a great motor and is a wonderful comeback story. Not only did he recover from a potentially career-ending injury, but he also made the tricky jump up to Rutgers, a prestigious university, from the watch-the-grass-grow podunk "school" that he was formerly attending.