Illinois football coach Tim Beckman is a man on the move. Young and energetic, Beckman has hired an equally aggressive assistant coaching staff to help build the Illini program. They have multiple tasks on their plate.
Speaking on WDWS radio, Beckman says there is still plenty of recruiting to do even though Signing Day is past.
"No, we're not done. I was proud of the 19 we signed. We're continually recruiting, and we'll recruit until we get to that magic number 85."
Three scholarships are still available. Beckman has several choices besides saving some for next year.
"I think one thing that a great coaching staff does is save a few with the prospect of getting a kid later on. Maybe a transfer or a qualifier who might be late. We felt we needed to go out and get people who fit our program and understand what we want in terms of a student-athlete."
No quarterbacks were signed, but the position wasn't a high priority.
"We felt that we've got some very good quarterbacks that fit some of the things we want to do. There'll be great competition with all four of them. Chase Haslett was put on scholarship just prior to me taking this job, so that puts four quarterbacks on scholarship. This year, were going to try to find the best quarterback we can."
There has been some recent controversy created when Ohio State stole recruits from three other Big 10 programs just prior to Signing Day. Some say there should be a "gentleman's agreement" not to recruit those committed to other conference schools. Beckman says things were clarified at a recent B1G coaches meeting.
"I thought that the meeting went outstanding, it was very professionally done. For it being my first meeting, I thought we all left the meeting feeling good and understanding what the intentions are for each program.
"You look at the new staffs. There's seven new coaches in the Big Ten in the last two years. So it was a new group that was in that meeting room."
The Illini coach explained his philosophy regarding recruiting and the necessity for a new coach to reach out to top prospects in his own state.
"Throughout recruiting, we all act professional. That's what you're responsible to do. You don't badmouth anybody, there's no need. You sell what you believe in, you sell your program, you sell the things you feel are necessary for us to be successful. There's plenty of things to sell here at Illinois.
"One of our objectives is to recruit this state better. Anybody who is involved in this state, I'm going to recruit. I'm going to make the young man who is not interested in Illinois tell me they're not interested in Illinois. I just think that's the right way to do it. You recruit until signing date, and you try to get the best players that fit your program."
Winter workouts are highly competitive. Beckman explains how he approaches this conditioning phase.
"The way we started these winter workouts, we had a draft. We brought in all the seniors and split up into eight football teams. We're going to compete in everything we do every day of the week.
"Monday is speed day. We'll have weightlifting in the morning, but we will run completed speed races. You either win points for your team or you lose points for your team. Tuesday is agility day. We split it up into eight agilities, and we compete in competitions on all eight agilities. You win or I win.
"Thursday is combat drills. We'll actually get after one another in combat, eight drills. And Friday is a weight room competition. You are competing at a constant level. We also compete in the classroom."
The draft required consideration for things besides pure athleticism, showing how much importance Beckman places on behavior and responsibility.
"It's not about how fast you are or how strong you are, it's more about how accountable you are. They understand that when we have this draft, we're gonna get a guy that's fast. We're gonna get a guy that's strong.
"But he better be on time. If he's not on Illini Time, his team loses 50 points. If he misses a class, his team loses 50 points. So this draft was very interesting. It wasn't a popularity contest. It was about who is accountable."
Beckman also emphasizes public service for all his players.
"Every Friday from here on out, the players will have opportunities to meet the public. We have a requirement of six hours a year. We'll set up times for them, but we think it's crucial to get out among the Illini faithful. See them face-to-face.
"I'm not interested in just the name on the back, I've emphasized personally knowing our fans. I think it's very important that our players get out and do that."
Some Illini fans disliked the spread offense run by former coach Ron Zook. Of course, anything that doesn't produce wins is judged negatively. Beckman will use the spread if his personnel permits it.
"The spread is successful. It's being able to take your personnel and fit it to the best scheme we can. If the 'I' is better than the spread, so be it. We must take the personnel we have. We're stuck with that until we have time to recruit, so that's what we're going to run."
Beckman is a firm believer in adjusting the speed of the offense to disrupt defensive tendencies and take advantage of personnel groups.
"It's the speed that we run that is so much different. Our offense is gonna have six different tempos. Is it going to be a quick pace? Is it going to be a slower pace? Is there going to be multiple plays called so that we can run four straight plays without having to signal anything in? It's the speed that we run that's different."
Traditionalists want an offense that huddles. Will he use a huddle?
"No. Just a little bit in goal line situations. And there is a speed where we actually huddle. But we do a lot of things from the line of scrimmage. We do a lot of look-look type deals where we try to get the best call for the look, and really stress the defensive players into not showing their hands."
Illini special teams need improvement. Beckman will not limit his special team performers to reserves.
"Every one of our starters will start on a special team. If you're a defensive starter, you will not start on defense unless you start on a special team. That's just one of the rules we have. We do not do that with our quarterbacks."
In a partial departure from the past, Beckman is flexible enough to permit his players opportunities to play other sports.
"I've got two guys running track right now. I think it's something that's good for the University, and they can be successful too. As long as it doesn't interfere with their workouts here, why not? It's just gonna make you better. (Ryan) Lankford and (Pat) Nixon-Youman are running track."
It remains to be seen how well future Illini teams will fare on the field of battle. But one thing is for sure, Beckman will do everything in his power to produce a winner. He hopes his example will be contagious.
"I'm excited about playing that football game. I'll run up and down the sidelines with them. We'll chest bump, we're a very active staff. My philosophy on coaching is, you coach every day 110%. We're going to coach with great emotion, great enthusiasm from day one.
"You're going to see a very competitive football team that plays four quarters of football. We'll play with outstanding effort and enthusiasm. That's what I believe in. I don't care who we play, LSU or Alabama, we'll play with great intensity. And we'll play four quarters of football.
"This game is tough enough. If you don't have that passion to make your football players better, then how are you going to be successful?"