User ID
  Forgot User ID
or Register Today!
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Google+ VI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds
Betting Tools

Illinois changing, but how much unclear

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Coming off a 2-10 season, there will be changes in Tim Beckman's second season as Illinois coach.

Spring practice starts Tuesday after an offseason of coaching turnover.

Beckman changed much of his staff, bringing in new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit and adding new assistants on both sides of the ball.

And Illinois will play without four of the most talented players off last season's team - defensive end Michael Buchanan, defensive back Terry Hawthorne, defensive tackle Akeem Spence and offensive lineman Hugh Thornton. All four are trying now to catch the eye of NFL teams ahead of the draft.

Beckman said Monday that he wasn't surprised by challenges his team faced last fall - depth key among them, he said.

``It's what I thought it was when I was getting in,'' said Beckman, who came from Toledo to replace Ron Zook. ``I knew it would be a challenge. ... I think we're moving forward.''

With Cubit in charge of the offense, change is likely there.

Cubit was fired last season after eight seasons as Western Michigan coach, but has a history of putting together productive offenses. Illinois' was the Big Ten's worst last season in both scoring (16.7 points a game) and in yardage (296.7).

Cubit says returning starter Nathan Scheelhaase has the edge at quarterback, but said he's really hoping backup Reilly O'Toole pushes the incumbent. O'Toole, a sophomore, played in seven games last fall as Scheelhaase struggled with both his performance and injuries.

``I expect Reilly to go out there and say, `I want to go out there and be the starter just like Nate is,''' Cubit said. ``That's the only way to do it. If he sits back, he'll never be good.''

The team's running backs, Beckman said, figure to be a strong point. Donovonn Young, Josh Ferguson and Dami Ayoola combined for 1,000 yards on 232 carries last season.

The line in front of them was a weakness last fall, but Beckman said it should be better.

Illinois will go through the spring without its second most-productive receiver. Darius Millines - who had 319 yards on 32 catches last year - was already out with a shoulder injury but is now suspended for violating unspecified team rules, Beckman said Monday. Beckman said he'll re-evaluate Millines' situation in May.

With three of the four likely NFL prospects that left on defense, Illinois' biggest holes may be on that side of the ball. And those losses come from a unit that struggled in 2012. Illinois gave up 32.1 points a game - 11th in the 12-team Big Ten - and was 10th in yards allowed at 387.6. The team was also last in turnover margin and near the back of the conference in sacks just a season after being among the best in the country.

The problem last season, defensive coordinator Tim Banks said, wasn't the system. So don't expect to see big changes there.

``I mean, I think it's proven. Obviously we didn't play as well as we wanted to last year,'' said Banks, who came to Illinois from Cincinnati, where he ran one of the top defenses in the country. ``Is it the same defense I had two years ago? Yep.''

``If (Alabama coach) Nick Saban's guys don't make tackles and don't pick balls off,'' he added, ``it's not a great system.''

With a few exceptions, Illinois' spring practices will be closed to fans and news media. The annual spring game will be April 12 at Memorial Stadium.


Follow David Mercer on Twitter:

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2016
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

Dobish: Betting Recap - Week 8
USC suspends LB Ruffin indefinitely
Fresno State fires coach DeRuyter
USC preparing to face high-scoring Cal
Ohio State slips, PSU in, Houston out
Alabama sails into bye minus Jackson
LBs return to lead versatile PSU defense
UCLA offense on fire but still losing
Baylor has tough road on and off field
Why Buy Picks From
NCAAFB College Football Handicapper Sports Picks Records
NCAA FB Hot Streaks
30-9 Totals, 37-15 L5 Sat., +1,265
17-9 L26 G-Plays, 60% +911 TY
10-5 CFB Record This Month
3-0 Friday, 14-7 Run, +2,089 Totals
5 Wins in a Row, 7-3 L10 Totals
9-3 Record Saturday
5-2 Saturday, 7-2 Week 8
13-6 Saturday, 12-6 L18 Totals
5-2 CFB Picks Saturday
7-4 Saturday, 18-8 L26 Totals
4-1 Last 5 CFB G-Plays
9-2 L11 CFB Guarantees
5-1 L6 Guaranteed Plays
2-0 Record Last Thursday
4-2 Saturday, 5-1 L6 Guarantees
NCAA FB College Football Expert Picks
Money Leaders
Handicapper Money
Kyle Hunter + 1265
Scott Rickenbach + 911
Pat Hawkins + 550
Last Week's Leaders
Handicapper Money
Christian Alexander + 295
Kevin Rogers + 275
Scott Pritchard + 190
Percentage Leaders
Handicapper Pct
Scott Rickenbach 60 %
Kyle Hunter 59 %
Michael Black 56 %
Guaranteed Leaders
Handicapper Money
Scott Rickenbach + 620
The Gold Sheet + 570
Marc Lawrence + 340
Over-Under Leaders
Handicapper Money
NeiltheGreek + 2089
Kyle Hunter + 1470
Joe Williams + 817
Member Leaders
Handicapper Money
Bruce Marshall + 661
Scott Rickenbach + 380
Andy Iskoe + 156
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 10% off a Live Odds subscription, SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!
VI Gold Membership