#79 Illinois Football 2013 Preview

Illinois Fighting Illini

Overall Rank: #79
#12 Big Ten

Illinois Team Page#79 Illinois Football 2013 PreviewBuy Illinois Football Tickets

Year one for Coach Tim Beckman did not go very well. After beating Western Michigan and Charleston Southern early in the 2012 campaign, Illinois failed to win a game in the Big Ten. Most were not even close as the Fighting Illini offense never got off of the ground. And now the defense, which was not very good to begin with, must practically rebuild from scratch.

2012 Record: (2-10, 0-8)
2012 Bowl: None
Coach: Tim Beckman (2-10 at Illinois, 23-26 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bill Cubit
Defensive Coordinator: Tim Banks

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Donovonn Young, RB, 571 yards
Passing: Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, 1,361 yards
Receiving: Ryan Lankford, WR, 469 yards
Tackles: Mason Monheim, LB, 86
Sacks: Jonathan Brown, LB, 2.5
Interceptions: Mason Monheim, LB, 1; Earnest Thomas, S, 1

Other Key Returnees: RB Josh Ferguson, WR Spencer Harris, WR Miles Osei, TE Jon Davis, OL Simon Cvijanvic, OL Michael Heltz, OL Teddy Karras, DE Tim Kynard,

Key Losses: LB Ashante Williams, DL Akeem Spence, DL Michael Buchanan, DB Terry Hawthorne

Even though the offense ranked dead last in the Big Ten in total yards and points, this is a group that has talent. The hope is new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, the former head coach at Western Michigan, can find a better way to utilize the talent. It starts with quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. He is learning yet another offensive scheme, but this one with quick passes might be a good fit for Scheelhaase. There are experienced receivers for Scheelhaase to work with. Ryan Lankford is a speedster who caught 37 passes for 471 yards and Spencer Harris is a big target. Former quarterback Miles Osei will move to the slot position for his senior season and should turn into a fine possession receiver. Running back Josh Ferguson will remain involved in the passing game after catching 29 passes for 251 yards. Ferguson also rushed for 312 yards. Donovonn Young had a bit of a sophomore slump, but he still led Illinois with 571 rushing yards. The offensive line did not help the offense very much, although the unit as a whole is much more experienced this time around. If given time, the offense can make the big play that they failed to make in 2012.

The Illini defense did relatively well considering the offense so often put them in tough spots. But it was not good enough and just a handful of players are back. Linebackers Mason Monheim and Jonathan Brown will have to lead the team. Monheim is a great tackler and Brown has done a fine job as the playmaker on defense. Last year he tallied 2.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss before suffering a season ending injury in week nine. The line has very little experience. Tim Kynard started six games last season and is suddenly the leader of the unit. The defensive end totaled 18 tackles and one sack as a junior. The interior of the line is undersized and terribly inexperienced. A lack of quality depth in the trenches is what could be most damaging to the entire defense. When they are not getting pressure on the opposing quarterback, the young Illinois secondary will be in for a long year. Strong safety Earnest Thomas is the only starter returning to the unit. Sophomore corners Eaton Spence and V’Angelo Bentley will be thrown into the fire and they will make mistakes. As will the rest of the defense.

The Bottom Line:
This will be another long season for Illinois, yet the offense could at least make things interesting. Back in 2011 Scheelhaase got off to great start before faltering down the stretch. The 2012 campaign was more like the end of 2011, but we have seen him look like a quality dual-threat quarterback even if it was in spurts and quite a while ago. Scheelhaase does have the talent around him to vastly improve the offense. However, there really is nowhere to go but up for the offense. The defense, unfortunately, is going to take a pretty big step back and the offense may not be able make up for it.

Projected Bowl: None

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 127.83 (97th in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 168.83 (107, 11)
Total Offense: 296.67 (119, 12)
Scoring Offense: 16.67 (119, 12)
Rushing Defense: 193.92 (95, 11)
Pass Defense: 193.67 (19, 6)
Total Defense: 387.58 (53, 10)
Scoring Defense: 32.08 (93, 11)
Turnover Margin: -1.00 (106, 12)
Sacks: 1.75 (76, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 3.25 (111, 12)

Madness 2014 NFL Draft Rankings:
#34 Jonathan Brown

Madness 2013 Recruit Rankings:
#163 Aaron Bailey


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