Death Cab for Woody

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Come on feel the Illinoise

If you are a Sufjan Stevens fan, then I must say that life is pretty good. If you are an Illinois football fan, then life has been pretty bleak since the days of Kurt Kittner.

Having family in the central Illinois-area, I am subject to the recent problems with Illinois football and its inability to consistently put good teams on the field, while other schools in the region are able to have success (ie Northwestern, Notre Dame, etc.)

There is a different feel to the Illinois football program, since the hire of Ron Zook. With his own recruits starting to trickle into the fold, Illinois can only get better. After watching the OSU-Illinois game last year, I had realized far Illinois had fallen since its last Big Ten title in 2001.

The Illinois offense is bound and determined to get better. There is talent waiting in the wings with Freshman QB Isiah Williams shunning the likes of ND (there isn’t a an ND fan who would ever believe this) and OSU to play under Coach Zook. There is plenty of talent at the RB position with Halsey and Mendenhall leading a very experienced backfield. Add in QB Tim Brasic with another year of experience under his belt and Illinois should be able to put some points on the board against lesser opponents. However, Brasic does need to improve his status as a Big Ten signal caller this year, as he was near the basement in pass efficiency last year and had a 1:1 TD:INT Ratio Last year…not good. The entire O-line returns this year and is serviceable, but seemed to have uber-problems when facing teams with even marginal speed on the ends. Unfortunately for Tim, he is playing in the Big10 where marginal speed is there on the ends for most teams and fantastic speed is there for a few teams (PSU, UM, OSU, and Wisky). I would expect that things will get better for the Fightin’ Illini, but its all relative in the amount of success generated in year two of the Zook Era. Look for Williams to contribute early this year, it would be wise for Zook to get this talented freshman on the field now.

Brasic has to get running for his life.

This is where the problems really begin. The unit that Zook put on the field last year couldn’t stop Grand Valley State…let alone a team with decent offensive firepower. The front four was ridiculously overmatched in almost all of its Big10 match-ups this past season…even Indiana. Teams were able to beat the Illini to the corner on most days running the ball and the vertical passing game was always there for its opponents. With another of Zook’s football philosophy being brought in at Illinois, the defense will improve. It has to improve with better recruiting classes being brought into Champaign, which is something you can always count on with Zook at the helm. The LBs should improve this season as the freshmen and sophomores are ready for another season of brutal Illinois football.

When Googling "Illinois Defense" this is the first that pops up...surprising...not really.

Special Teams:
Freshman Punter (Kyle Yelton) = Good Times…for opposing teams. Junior Jason Reda returns as the placekicker for Illinois, which is a good thing, as the winds that swirl around Memorial Stadium are brutal for even the best kickers. I am sure that both of these guys will be top notch by the end of the season with the amount of repetition provided by the Zook-style offense.

Season Outlook (Homes Games – BOLD):

Eastern Illinois
Michigan State
Penn State
Ohio State

“Fa Show” Wins: Eastern Illinois
Could Go Either Way: Purdue, Syracuse, Indiana, Ohio
“Fa Show” Losses: Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Northwestern

Projected Season Record: 3-9 (1-7)

Bottom Line: It wont be a fun season in Champaign, but it will be better than last year.

Team Song for 2006: Downward is Heavenward by Hum.

Really a better preview of the Illinois season can be summed up by replaying this YouTube Video 12 times



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