CHAMPAIGN - Bill Cubit always wanted to be the head coach of a program in a powerhouse conference. He just didn't expect to take this path.
Cubit, 61, has felt plenty of conflicting emotions since he was named interim Illinois coach on Friday, following Tim Beckman's dismissal for revelations from a preliminary independent review into abuse allegations including allegedly making efforts to prevent players from reporting injuries.
When asked about the ascension to Big Ten head coach, Cubit -- who spent seven seasons as the head coach at Western Michigan before joining Beckman's staff prior to the 2013 season -- teared up thinking of his mother, Loretta, who died earlier this month.
"That's mom," Cubit said. "She keeps on messing with me up there.
"My deal is, I love kids. I love the guys on this football team. Someone bestowed upon me the honor of being the head coach at the University of Illinois. Man, can you ask for anything more? then the see the reaction I got from a lot of the country, a lot of the alumni. They all said, 'Hey, coach, let's go.' You have defensive guys come up to you and say, 'Hey, coach, I got your back. Don't worry about it. I think that's pretty neat, especially with a guy my age being able to do something like this.
"You're going to see a passionate, hard-working (coach). And I'm going to enjoy every minute of it. That's the way we're going to approach this thing."
Cubit has made adjustments to his staff. His son, quarterbacks coach Ryan Cubit, will assume more practice scripting duties -- a role he had under his father as the co-offensive coordinator at Western Michigan -- and he will continue to assist in game-planning.
"We've been together a long time," Bill Cubit said of his 32-year-old son. "It's pretty easy. He knows what we want and what we're looking for. I really don't have to talk to him much because he knows exactly what's going on.
"He's probably the one guy that's told me the way it is the last five years because what am I going to do? Take away his allowance? He's fine. It'll be good."
The athletic department is filing paperwork to promote Nathan Scheelhaase, a four-year starting quarterback for the Illini from 2010 to 2013, to running backs coach. Scheelhaase, who was hired earlier this year as the assistant director of football operations, would fill the vacancy left on the staff from Beckman's dismissal.
"Nate's really smart, and he's a great ambassador for this university," Cubit said. "His character is unmatched. Every time a recruit came on campus we had Nate talk to him and understand what an Illini means as far as education, as far as football and the expectations. He's got it all. So if that's the route we're going, I'll feel real comfortable."
The NCAA allowed Scheelhaase to coach the quarterbacks for a practice when Bill and Ryan Cubit (the quarterbacks coach) attended the funeral services of Loretta Cubit, Bill's mother and Ryan's grandmother. Scheelhaase graduated in 2013 as the Illini's career leader in total yards and led Illinois to back-to-back bowl wins as a freshman and sophomore. He spent the last year working for a church in Louisville.
Cubit's defensive input
Bill Cubit will continue as the primary offensive playcaller but also will spend a little more time overseeing the defense.
Cubit said he will meet with co-defensive coordinators Tim Banks and Mike Phair but that his role is more as a "cheeleader." Cubit said he frequently met with Banks and Phair during the past year to exchange notes on schemes and adjustments.
"We talked to the defense about some questions that I had, just so I had a better understanding," Cubit said. "I made a couple suggestions.
Banks now will coach both the safeties and cornerbacks, the latter of which Beckman coached. Banks will watch the games from the press box, while Phair will coach from the sideline.
"They're going to run what they know," Cubit said.
Cubit said he will cut down on special teams reps during practice but will leave most of the duties to special teams coordinator Alex Golesh, who shared some special teams duties with Beckman.
Ryan Cubit will coach from the press box, along with graduate assistant Tyler Johns.
Scheelhaase and graduate assistant Reilly O'Toole, another former Illini quarterback will coach from the field, along with co-defensive coordinator Tim Banks.
Wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy will serve a one-game NCAA suspension on Friday for a breach of conduct violation stemming from his efforts to make arrangements for a recruit to obtain a junior-college degree he had not completed.
- Back to work: Cubit said the players practiced with enthusiasm on Friday and Saturday. The team had the day off on Sunday before returning to the field on Monday afternoon. "I think our kids are doing a pretty good job," Cubit said. "My job is to make sure they're fresh for Friday."
- Depth chart: The coaches usually don't fill out the depth chart, but Illinois released its first official depth chart of the season. Some notable starters: senior Chris Boles at left guard, senior Eric Finney at STAR and junior Dionte Taylor at slot receiver. Henry Enyenihi is listed in the No. 2 running back slot, though freshman Ke'Shawn Vaughn is expected to get plenty of carries. Other true freshman in the two deep include receivers Sam Mays and Desmon Cain and defensive tackle Jamal Milan. Kickers Taylor Zalewski and David Reisner are listed as co-starters.
- Ward upgraded: Senior defensive end Jihad Ward does not appear on the depth chart, but Cubit said the starter will wear a green limited-contact jersey during practice on Monday. Ward underwent arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago and was expected to miss two games. But he may be available sooner. "We're anxious to see how he's going to do," Cubit said.
- Fallout: When asked about player safety in the aftermath of Beckman's dismissal, Cubit said "I don't know what went on, to be honest with you. That's why we have the trainers. ...They'll take care of those kids. And our coaches are educated enough that if a kid's banged up, get him over there (to the trainers), if you suspect anything."
- Keep recruiting: Cubit said he talked to all but one of the 15 committed recruits since Beckman's dismissal and added, "It was a good day yesterday," a veiled reference to a commitment from Missouri defensive end Brandon Jones. "I look at this thing as they told me what to do. I got the role, and I'm going to go at it 100 miles per hour. I'm not shying away. I'm going to go out there and make this university proud."