The Rundown: Beckman @ Media Days

CHICAGO - Illinois and the rest of the Big Ten hit the Media Days stage Wednesday. Here's a quick hitting roundup of what coach Tim Beckman discussed.

1) The quarterback position and, yeah, Nathan Scheelhaase is the starter.

Beckman mentioned Scheelhaase in his opening statement, making clear to point out he's excited to have the senior head into fall camp healthy. Then the first question Beckman fielded from the media contingent was about Scheelhaase.

Yes, Beckman assured, Scheelhaase is the starter heading into fall camp.

Later, Beckman was asked another question, slanted toward how quickly other options will be explored should the offense stutter.

Once again, Beckman defended his player, saying "there's not many Nathan Scheelhaase's out there. He's an exceptional human being."

2) Dealing with depth, or a lack thereof.

Beckman made no secret about it after he took the job, there was concern about depth from the top of the roster to the bottom. Then 800-plus snaps defensively and 400-plus snaps offensively were lost due to injury. That left the Illini in a bad situation and contributed to the 2-10 record.

Is the depth better now? Beckman didn't exactly say that, but he did express excitement for 33 new faces enrolled in the program, including five junior college players that provide age and at least some prior experience.

"We will have to continually do that (recruit junior college players) in my opinion for the next two to possibly three years, to make sure that we have a balance in our program from senior down to freshman class," Beckman said.

3) Bill Cubit's influence.

Clearly the biggest offseason addition to the staff, Cubit has been the main driving force for generating hope this offseason. Can his offensive preferences spurn progress? Will his past head coaching experience aid Beckman in his pursuit of establishing a long-term tenure in Champaign?

With questions floating around like that, it's clear Cubit is an integral figure in the 2013 narrative.

Bill Cubit, I don't know if words could actually describe what I think he's meant to this staff since he's joined us in January," Beckman said. "He's got a great background of being a leader. He's got a great background of calling plays. Probably called a million plays plus in his career."

4) Something to sell.

A few quick facts: Illinois led the Big Ten with four players selected in April's NFL Draft. That extended a streak of at least four Illini players chosen in each of the last four drafts. 16 Illinois players have been picked since 2010, the most in the Big Ten.

So… while many fans will pull their hair out over the fact that players clearly qualified for the pro ranks haven't led Illinois to many victories, the number of players that played at Illinois currently in the NFL is something to sell on the recruiting trail.

"I think the fact that we've got so many NFL players that can be involved with our program, the experiences that they can share to a younger current Illini I think have been crucial in the things that I've seen over the last year," Beckman said.

5) Always be makin' progress.

Beckman used the word progress eight times. He said 'excited' 11 times. Of course, every coach in every conference talks like this in July. But Beckman also made it a point to say the team is not looking back to the past and last year's dismal effort.

"We're not going to let negativity infiltrate our program," Beckman said. "We're going to be positive with a great passion towards what we want to get accomplished."


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