WATCH: Lovie Smith season wraps up 2016 season, previews offseason

Illini coach Lovie Smith recaps the 2016 season and discusses recruiting and the next steps for his program

On 2016 season...

“Three wins aren’t enough. The plan of course was to win more games than that the first year out, but it didn’t work that way. When you come in to a new situation, you have to see where you are. The only way to do that is to let things play out. To be able to get to get two Big Ten wins though is a start. We know we have to get more.

“It’s no fun losing. Believe me, It’s no fun losing at all. You’re miserable when you lose, and you should be miserable when you lose.

“Disappointing year, but as I see it, the cycle’s already started for next year, where better days will be ahead for us. Josh Whitman, our A.D., has that ‘We will win’ motto.’ It’s still there.”

On offense...

“Offensively, we had a chance to see what we’d like to be. We talked about balance on the offensive side. We’d like to have balance to be able to run the ball and of course pass it. We’ll do everything a little bit better.”

“Can’t wait to get Chayce Crouch back. Chayce came in to give us a lift. Toughness. Throwing the ball. Of course, running it. Hopefully we can be more productive on the offensive side of the ball. Not hopefully. We will be.”

On if staff is coming back intact…

“Absolutely. If there’s a great opportunity that comes along for someone that we think it’s a better situation for them, I’m trying to help our guys advance as much as anything. I have a great job here at the University of Illinois based on people helping me along the way. I’m in a different role now trying to help some of our guys. That’s not the case right now. I don’t know of anyone that’s planning on it. If I do, I’ll let you know.”

On spring ball starting in mid-February...

“First, I just kind of believe in it. If you’re ready for football, why put it off? If you go through spring ball and you have a couple injuries, you have more time for them to rehab and heal up. And I like to finish up before spring break. Now, we can get into our offseason program and go straight through with it without breaking it up also. And I like change too. Sometimes when you don’t get the results you want, change things up a little bit. We’re going to do it this way, and I think the guys will like it.”

On if there will be a spring game...

“We haven’t made all those decisions yet. Little bit of it has to do with the number of guys we have. I know our numbers are down a little bit with the injuries and all that. We may not be able to (have a spring game), but hopefully we’ll have enough to have at least something at the end so everyone can see their team we’re going forward with.”

On Chayce Crouch's health...

“He won’t be ready for the start of spring ball (after season-ending shoulder surgery), but he’ll be ready for training camp. We’re not going to put a number on it. He’s already working hard. If you know Chayce, he’ll come back sooner than everyone assumes he will.”

On plans for Mike Dudek's return...

“We have a plan in mind that we feel comfortable with, that Mike and his family feels comfortable with. Of course, the goal is opening game against Ball State having him in uniform having him with us.

“The next time we play, he’ll be with us.”

On college football playoff...

“I believe in the eight-team playoff system a little bit. Because it seemed like with four, some good teams get left out. The four that are in there are worthy, all right, to be there. But we’re in the Big Ten Conference, right? We have the best conference in football and our champion isn’t in it? I have a problem with that. So to me, how do you remedy that? You add more teams to it.”


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