Zook, Staff Still Recruiting Best Players

Every month is busy for college football coaches. But February is an especially busy time for Fighting Illini head football coach Ron Zook. With six new coaching hires, much preparation is needed for spring practices that begin late March. And after signing 21 seniors to scholarships early February, junior recruiting is already going full tilt.

Illinois head coach Ron Zook took a couple moments during halftime of the Ohio State basketball game Sunday to talk about his schedule. With new offensive and defensive coordinators and new schemes to install, much work is required.

"We're making a serious push. Our offensive and defensive staffs are on the same page. There's a lot of work going on right now."

With the acquisition of outside linebacker coach Ron West, Zook's new staff is finally complete. He is happy to have that task finalized so the entire staff can work toward common goals.

"Absolutely. It's fun, exciting. It gives them a chance to get to know the players and gives the players a chance to know them. I wish we could start spring tomorrow."

Zook is convinced new schemes can be installed in the 15 day spring practice period.

"Oh yeah. We've got to get through it. Both systems are the type where you're going to utilize your personnel. The biggest thing is the evaluation of the personnel, making sure we're doing the things that they can do."

Of course, Zook and his staff are simultaneously working on recruiting the next batch of players.

"We've started to work on junior recruiting. We're probably ahead of where we've been the last couple years."

That last statement was a pleasant surprise, given the extra work required near signing day to finalize the 2010 recruiting class with a partial staff. Every area of the state of Illinois has to be covered, so territories had to be assigned new personnel.

"We're all done assigning that. Everybody knows their area and territory. Now it's a matter of going recruiting and go get them."

Some fans become concerned when they hear other schools making official offers to top Illinois prospects before the Illini. But Zook feels it is important to take his time. The early bird does not necessarily get the worm.

"I think one thing, particularly in-state, we're always going to be a little behind because we want to make sure we evaluate. We don't want to screw up in-state.

"It's easier for people out-of-state to just send them (offers) out like tic-tacs. We're gonna make sure we're doing the right thing. I don't really feel like we're behind. It's a long time til next February."

The key is not necessarily who is first to offer, but who offers the best opportunity for the players. Zook is willing to recruit against the nation's best for top talent.

"We're fine. You can't talk to them anyway. It's getting the right ones. That's the key. If we want them, we're gonna offer. It's our job to prove to them why it's the best place."

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