Clinkscale Adapting Readily To Illinois

Fighting Illini football coach Tim Beckman brought three of his Toledo assistants with him to Champaign. One of them is cornerback coach Steve Clinkscale. In part one of a three part interview, he talks about adjusting to his new job and general thoughts on his coaching philosophy and the need to develop depth in the spring.

Like his fellow Illinois coaches, new cornerback coach Steve Clinkscale is coping with multiple changes as he moves from Toledo. He is eager to get his family moved to Champaign as soon as possible.

"Yeah, it takes a lot of prayer. My wife does a lot of the stuff. With her being a coach's wife, she has to wear a lot of helmets. Help get the boys in school and take care of everything when daddy's not home.

"We are trying to move here within the next 30 days. It's hard for me to be away from my family. I tried that once before, and that was tough. So as soon as I can possibly get them here, that's the plan."

He hasn't found his new job overwhelming, thanks in large part to his familiarity with Tim Beckman and the family atmosphere prevalent at Illinois.

"I think part of it is I like going to a new situation. There's a lot of reasons why. Most of it has to do with the chemistry of the team or the chemistry of the entire situation. This is been a very easy transition, to be honest with you.

"The transition as far as work load, there's nothing different here than what I did at Toledo with Coach Beckman. That's what I'm accustomed to. I like to work and make sure we're working properly. You don't have to work hard if you're doing things the right way, if you manage your time."

Experienced Illini secondary players also help make the adaptation a smooth one.

"In my position group alone, the secondary area and defensive backs, we have I believe seven seniors. Those guys make the transition easy because they do what they're supposed to do. They're enjoyable to be around, they're always here. So the transition with the players has been very easy."

Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green are returning senior starters at cornerback. The Illini recruited three freshman corners, but there is precious little depth this spring. Clinkscale must find a way of giving his men a lot of work while protecting them from injury.

"We have to be smart. The first year I coached, I realized you can coach hard and be tough, be demanding, but you better coach smart and make sure your players are healthy and able to play. We'll definitely have that approach.

"We're going to play hard and practice hard, go full speed. It really gives those other young men some opportunity to have the same experience as Terry and Justin and show us what they can do."

Clinkscale believes in giving his players experience so they will be ready when needed. He doesn't fear the graduation of his seniors even though their backups are mostly freshmen and redshirt freshmen.

"I think it's a good opportunity for the young players to play. A lot of times, you have some guys in between that can play. But they'll get their opportunity whether they like it or not.

"We have to see what they can do. They have to get accustomed to playing a game. They're going to play in some big games. It's actually been our philosophy for the last three years coming from my previous school that we played a lot of guys in the secondary.

"It's a long season. If you give those guys an opportunity to play, suddenly they have to play in a big game and it's not their first start, or it's not the first time they've been on the field. It gives them some repetitions and some confidence and experience."

In part two, Clinkscale provides specifics about his players, including his newcomers. He discusses recruiting in part three.

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