Illinois football coach Tim Beckman brought his entire football staff to meet assembled media Monday. He is excited about the group and feels they will be the foundation for a bright future in Champaign.
"The staff we hired, the Fighting Illini staff, I couldn't be more tickled to be around their families. They are outstanding individuals.
"One thing I've learned in my 47 years of being around football is you surround yourself with good people. The people you surround yourself with have to believe in the same things you believe in. Each member of the staff is a great person. And they understand that family is of utmost importance to the success of any program.
"I've assembled people who have the same intentions as I do of what we want to get accomplished. I'm very privileged to have these gentlemen as part of our staff."
Beckman knows his men well.
"Tim Salem has been involved with the Big Ten, and he does an outstanding job with special teams. I thought that it would be a great fit for us. He will be our running back coach and special teams coordinator. I'm very excited about Tim.
Chris Beatty is a gentleman I've known throughout my coaching career. He has had an effect on the programs he has worked with, most recently with Vanderbilt and West Virginia.
"I met Chris one evening when we were out recruiting in Virginia. I also coached against Chris, who was a football player at East Tennessee State. He had a bunch of catches against us. Chris will be our quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator. We're very excited to have the Beatty family as part of our staff.
"Alex Golesh was hired back in December. Alex is our recruiting coordinator. He also works with specialists and tight ends. He has been part of the Beckman family for quite some time at different institutions.
"Luke Butkus was a no-brainer. He bleeds Orange. He believes in Orange and everything about this institution from academics to football. He's an outstanding individual.
"I called him when he was coaching with the Seattle Seahawks in their offensive line. He came the next day. He wanted to be involved with this program. I'm excited to have the Butkus family back involved with this program. Luke will be coaching the offensive line.
"Billy Gonzales is another close friend who was involved with me at Bowling Green. The Gonzales family is a tremendous asset. He's been in national championship games and coached and been involved with national caliber football players.
"He will be wide receiver coach and co-coordinator of the offense with Coach Beatty. I'm excited about what Billy brings to the program.
"Tim Banks our defensive coordinator is our newest addition. He's another gentleman I've coached with at Bowling Green State University. I'm very honored to be with him on our staff. He coached the secondary when I was coordinator there. Timmy has done a fabulous job at Maryland, Central Michigan and Cincinnati. He will coach our defensive safeties.
"Mike Ward will coach our linebackers. The Ward family has been involved with the Beckman family since the start of our careers. He's been at Bowling Green and Toledo as a defensive coordinator.
"Coach Clink (Steve Clinkscale) will coach our corners. Coach Clink was with us at Toledo. He is an Ohio native. I've been involved with Clink and his wife for some time, and I know he will do an outstanding job for us with our defensive corners.
"Last but not least, Keith Gilmore was the first to join our staff. Keith's record speaks for itself, for what he's done with the defensive fronts here, Cincinnati, Central Michigan and all his career. He's done an outstanding job creating All-Americans, and creating fine people off the field also."
Beckman also introduced three members of his support staff.
"One of the blessings about being a head football coach, especially in the Big Ten, is the ability to hire a support staff that is very important to the success of any program. Our player personnel director is John Hauser. When you are hiring a player personnel director, everybody understands the importance of this. Every NFL team has it, every Big Ten school has it.
"It's a person that is in charge of evaluating your personnel and evaluating the personnel that's out there in the high school ranks. That's what John Hauser will be doing for us. I think it's crucial in today's game to evaluate how we can get better with our personnel. John was a no-brainer for us, coached in the national championship game a couple months ago.
"Adrian Melendez will continue to be the director of football operations. Adrian's done a great job here previously. He also did a fine job at Florida.
"Last but not least is the mad scientist Aaron Hillman. He is our strength and conditioning coach. By far, of the people I've been around, Aaron Hillman is the finest I've been around on and off the football field. He prepares our players not just as players but as individuals each and every day. We're very excited to have the Hillman family involved with this new Illini family."
The word "family" is of utmost importance to Beckman and his staff.
"We are developing a family. We try to bring in people who believe in the same things you believe in. People who have been involved in your career and your life. When you bring in the coaches, you bring in the families, the children and everybody that's involved in their lives.
"One thing I've learned in my coaching career is the importance of families being involved in the bigger picture. This is gonna be one big Illini family we're gonna be very proud of."
Beckman was asked for Gonzales's qualifications to be an offensive coordinator, his first opportunity in that role. The head coach expanded his answer to include all his coordinators.
"He's a winner. He's been there, he understands what it takes to play in the big game and be successful. His background has proved it.
"I think if you look at our coaching staff as a whole, I feel the same thing about Chris Beatty, Timmy Banks and Tim Salem. They've been in the big game, they understand what it takes. They've all been involved in being a champion at one time or another."
Beckman also added a positive spin to the overall youthfulness of the staff.
"There aren't going to be any hands-in-pockets type coaching. We are all going to be involved in the players' lives 24 hours a day. We're gonna try to make our players the best they can be, not just as football players but as individuals. I love having a young staff, I've always had a young staff. We are going to be very energetic."
Banks described his reasoning for moving from Cincinnati to Illinois.
"I'm excited about these guys. I believe the sky is the limit here. I had a pretty good job where I left. We had a bunch of guys coming back, we had just won a championship, so we didn't have to leave. But understanding the vision Coach Beckman has, understanding the vision that Mike Thomas has, at that point it became a no-brainer.
"We have really good kids here. As I continue to learn about our university, I understand what it means to be a part of this Illini Nation. From academics to the great history we have, plus the football, really it's a no-brainer. I'm excited to get started this spring coaching these young men. It's gonna be a good ride."
Banks was asked his defensive philosophy.
"You're gonna see an attacking style defense, guys flying around playing with great passion and great juice. People ask what scheme we're running, but the scheme is irrelevant.
"What it is about is the fundamentals and the level of passion and toughness the kids attain. Right now, the kids are working extremely hard in the weight room. If that's any indication of what they'll bring to the field, I'm excited, I'm fired up."
Gonzales knew what he wanted and jumped at the chance to join Beckman.
"I'd like to thank Coach Beckman for giving me the opportunity to come. He called me up and asked me if I'd be interested, and there really wasn't any deciding. I didn't have to think about it. I called my wife, and I was all in.
"I know what kind of a man Coach Beckman is. He talks about family. There are coaches out there who will preach family, but they really don't believe that. Coach Beck believes in it.
"On recruiting weekends, you're going to see his wife around and his children around, and the same with the rest of the staff. Our children will be around on recruiting weekends. When we talk about family, he is family.
"When I decided to come here, it was an open and shut case. I said I've got to have an opportunity to work with Coach Beckman. He's proven. I've had an opportunity to work with him before, and he's a winner."
Gonzales left no doubt about his and the staff's goals at Illinois.
"I've had a chance to work in the Midwest before, and my wife's from the Midwest. I'm excited to get back to the Big Ten, it's a great conference. This school deserves championships. Me and Coach Butkus were talking about this last night. We came here to win championships.
"Everybody on this staff has been a part of a championship team somewhere throughout their career as a coach or a player. What Coach Beckman has done is hire guys like him. He's hired guys that have the same values, that are going to be aggressive."
Aggressiveness appears to be the defining characteristic of the offense as well.
"We are going to be extremely aggressive on offense. We are in the beginning stages of putting everything together, but we're going to be aggressive. We're going to be multiple, we want to play fast and up tempo.
"At the same time, in the passing game we want to be extremely efficient. I think that's probably the biggest thing. We want to play fast, but we have to be efficient in what we do.
"We're going to do what our players will allow us to do. We're not going to be hardheaded and try to do something they can't do. The biggest thing for us is to be fundamentally sound and have the players buy in to what we're doing. I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to be here with Coach Beckman at the University of Illinois."
Beatty expects a productive relationship between him and Gonzales.
"I'm extremely excited to have an opportunity to join Coach Beckman. His track record is proven, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to be here. We've got a great staff assembled, and I'm excited to work with such great people.
"I met Billy a long time ago when I was coaching high school. He recruited one of my players. I've known him for a long time, and this is my first chance to work with him."
Salem is one of the elder statesmen of the new staff. But the others make him feel much younger.
"I guess when you're associated with a young staff and you're 50 years old, that's good. I feel like I'm 25 years old. One of the reasons why I made the switch to leave the Sunshine State and come back to the North and the Big Ten, is to work for that gentleman (referring to Beckman).
"I've had a chance to be in the Big Ten a number of times as a player at Minnesota and a coach at Ohio State. All those years I was in this league, I knew what Illinois had and what Illinois could do. So when he called to invite me to join his staff, I was all in. There was no hesitation, I was on a flight the next morning. I was here ready to roll.
"I'm very excited to work with these coaches. Some I've crossed paths with or known on the recruiting trail. I came here to win. I got a brother who coaches at Michigan State, and I came back because I want to kick his butt. My plan is to be playing in the championship game in Indianapolis next December."
Salem is as knowledgeable as he is humorous. He has the daunting task of changing the image of Illini special teams, but he leaves no doubt he is the man for the job.
"I really didn't understand that until I got here and went through the NCAA stats. I started at the top and went down. I kept going down and down, and there were the numbers at the very bottom. I've been associated with special teams the last three years, and I was special teams coach at Colorado State when Billy Gonzales was playing.
"Special teams is a big part of the ball game. That is gonna change, there is no question. From what it means from an offensive and defensive standpoint, from a field position standpoint, scoring standpoint, that will change from the top down. From the head coach on down, and not just starting with me. We're going to work on that this spring, and the numbers are going up. No question."
Besides the nine assistants, Beckman promises to be involved in all phases.
"I like to be involved in all of it as a head football coach. I know I can't be involved in all of it, it would be stretching me too thin. Of course I've been a defensive football coach a majority of my life, but I think I can add some things to our offensive staff, things that hurt us as a defensive staff in the Big 12, the Big 10 and in the Mid-American. Also with the special teams. I think I need to be an active participant in those roles also.
"But I've hired my coordinators to coordinate. They will be in charge of our offense, defense and special teams. I will be involved to make our teams as good as they can be."
Beckman is starting fresh with a new staff and a successful group of players who have won two straight bowl games. His motto for his tenure at Illinois is a simple one but profound if he can make it work.
"We call it Operation New Era."