End of the Line?

Tim Banks future as the Illinois defensive coordinator is in doubt after a season-long struggle.

CHAMPAIGN – The future for Tim Banks is now the immediate focus and concern of Illini Nation following Saturday's 37-34 season-ending loss to rival Northwestern.

Will the Illinois defensive coordinator be shown the door following a season in which his unit allowed over 35 points and nearly 500 yards a game?

That's for Coach Tim Beckman to decide. Following Saturday's defeat, Banks said he hasn't worried about his job status.

"I know who I am as a coach," Banks said. "I know what I bring to the table. I've been extremely blessed and extremely productive throughout most of my career, so I'm very confident that whatever path God has for me that I'll be happy and very successful."

Northwestern provided yet another example in a season full of defensive letdowns. Wildcats backup quarterback Trevor Siemian threw for 414 yards and four touchdowns, leading Northwestern to its highest point total since the last week of September. A look back at the defense's performance provides a staggering amount of statistical evidence that goes against the notion of retaining Banks for a third season.

The Illini gave up 37 points or more in six of their eight conference games and set the stage for five running backs to pile up over 200 yards on the ground.

Banks, who was on staff previously at Cincinnati, admitted his tenure at Illinois has been marked by less than desired results.

"We all play, coach to try to win," he said. "You want to win games. When you don't win, that's difficult.

"You learn a lot about yourself during difficult times. When the getting is good and everybody thinks you're the smartest coach in the country it's easy. But when everyone thinks you're not as bright as you think you are it can be difficult. Again, that is life. That's how it is. We're in the entertainment business. People live and die with what we do. You've got to be able to handle that. I've got a great home, a great wife and a great support system who I know they love me regardless. Same thing with my kids, my players they know I'll do everything I can tot try to make them successful. To me, that's all I can ask for."

Passing on the talk of his still being around, Banks said, "the sky is the limit," for the defense next season. Exiting seniors Jonathan Brown and Tim Kynard are the only expected losses. Experience and another offseason to improve are two things Banks pointed to for signs of progression.

"To say that the cupboard is bare, nah, I don't think so," he said. "I think we'll have a tremendous amount of experience. Now, to say that we don't still need some things that need to be addressed, we're working through that during recruiting."

And if he is still the man in charge, Banks already has plan for the offseason.

"You break it down from the top all the way to the bottom," he said. "From the smallest detail, what was our issue here, why didn't we execute there. Was it personnel, is it scheme, what is it that's not allowing us to be successful in certain situations. From there we'll make adjustments."

Banks said all the right things Saturday, patiently fielding reporter's questions with his wife Robin standing within earshot. It hasn't been an ideal run for Banks at Illinois. Still, he managed to provide perspective on his reason for coaching, a nod to the role despite the lack of ultimate success.

"At the end of the day, you know, you're also building men," Banks said. "How we handle adversity, how we teach them to handle adversity are life long teachable opportunities for them that they'll really use throughout the rest of their lives. Hopefully going through these tough two years with such a young defense, hopefully this will be something that will carry them on. Then when things get tough you don't quit. You continue to battle. At some point you know the fruits of your labor will come to pass."


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