Let me tell you right now, I'm one of the few believers that Ron Turner is a good coach. One flaw, in the total package, turned out to be more than he could overcome. That major flaw was recruiting. So many people take it for granted, but it's the name of the game in college sports. Turner was very fortunate to have former players like Kurt Kittner, Brandon Llyod, Greg Lewis and Eugene Wilson all pan out to be great players at Illinois. Not every player needs to be a five star recruit, but the "good" programs get their share every year. For example, Kyle Williams, a five start player and ranked as one of the nations top players by Scout. Com, didn't give Illinois the time of day. Looking at this year's group of star players, Dan Doering, OL prospect from Barrington High School in Illinois, the Illini can't make his final five. Here are few others that come to mind this year that Turner and his staff can't even get a sniff at: Dace Richardson, Warrenville South HS, OL, schools- Iowa, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Michigan and Wisconsin; Tony Moeaki, TE, Warrenville South HS, schools- BYU, Iowa, Tennessee, UCLA and USC; Ryan Bain, DT, Bolingbrook HS, schools- Wisconsin, MSU, OSU and Purdue. None of these Illinois high school players gave Illinois much thought.
My point is this, when Turner had the good players, Turner did fairly well. An example, in 2001, The Illini played LSU in a BSC bowl game. Right now you might think I'm losing it, but think about this for one second, in 2001 Turner became the Big Ten Coach of the Year. Do you think he forgot how to do it in just three to four short years?
Let's change sports here for a second. Basketball coach Bobby Knight, a legend in Indiana basketball, at one time had a three year winning streak at Assembly Hall in Indiana. Why; because he could still go out and take the best players and mold them to his style of play. Once "today's" kids started to tune out the general, times became tough for him. What once was a tough and impossible place to win became easier. Now Knight is at Texas Tech, in his first year, the team had its ups and down. But not long after that, they made the NCAA tournament for two consecutive years in a row, finishing last season with a 23-10 record. Again, Knight didn't forget how to coach.
Now having said all of this, I know part of being a head coach is recruiting, that's why I feel Illinois should hire a guy that's a proven winner at the college level. No disrespect to the guys in the NFL, but at this point, Illinois needs to aim for the sky and find a coach that's one hell of a recruiter. Someone with a clean background, a great X's and O's kind a guy and a media dream.
Listening to all the talk radio shows, reading the football message board here, I think some people may have it all wrong. Listening to a show recently, I heard, "Illinois can never get a coach like Steve Spurrier." Can I ask, "Why not?" When you settle for second best, sometimes that's what you become. Regardless of what the numbers say, you can win at Illinois. If you can win at Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan St., you can do it in Champaign. Now it's up to Athletic Director Ron Guenther to find the right guy to mend the recruiting losses, again, and give the fans something to hang their hats on. If this doesn't happen, the empty seats at Memorial Stadium will only grow.