Fine Line Between Anxiety, Excitement

Illinois coach Tim Beckman used a peculiar word at Big Ten Media Days to describe his emotions as fall camp swiftly approaches.

CHICAGO - After rattling off the usual opening lines and wishing his mother, Pat, a happy birthday, Illinois coach Tim Beckman used a peculiar word to describe his emotions as fall camp swiftly approaches.

"I guess the word I like to use is anxious," the second-year head coach said at the podium at Big Ten Media Days. "I'm very anxious to see the progress that this football team has made since the first of December."

Wince. Anxious? That's a word with synonyms like uneasy, worried and concerned.

Beckman's tone that accompanied the previous quote didn't match that description.

Instead he should have said he was excited. That would have been a better fit. The fans? Yeah, they're anxious.

A 2-10 record will do that to a support base. And anybody looking to gather evidence for why Illinois won't be much better this season doesn't exactly have to reach too far.

Still, with all the Big Ten coaches and a cast of talented players gathered on Michigan Avenue at the upscale Hilton, Beckman, like his peers, threw praise and positivity around with ease.

Nathan Scheelhaase is healthy! Jonathan Brown is healthy! New offensive coordinator Bill Cubit knows what he's doing! The recently arrived freshmen and junior college transfers are fitting in quite well!

That's how these events are -- everything is upbeat and everybody is getting better everyday (save Urban Meyer, who had to deal with questions of a different variety due to off-the-field issues. Again).

While so many people are predicting more losses, pining over the bleak forecast or protesting season ticket renewals, Beckman has been full speed ahead since last December.

That's his only viable move.

"One of the things that we talked about also as a group is we're taking one challenge at a time in a very, very positive way," Beckman said. "We're not going to let negativity infiltrate our program. We're going to be positive with a great passion towards what we want to get accomplished.

"And I've seen that through this football team. The credit's gotta go to the senior class and to the football players that we currently have on the program."

This offseason brought forth a few victories. A record 51 players had at least a 3.0 grade point average for spring semester. Four players from last season's team were selected in the NFL draft. And the transfer of highly thought of quarterback West Lunt brought forth much needed good publicity on the recruiting front.

That's progress, no matter how minor it may seem.

"Now we just need to make sure that it correlates on the football field," Beckman said.

Now, that's something he said spot on.

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