Beck and Call

Illinois When Tim Beckman was hired in December he was stuck between a rock and hard place. Now, an airplane has crashed on that rock, a T-Rex has hatched out of what we thought was a rock and poisonous snakes have emerged from the hard place.

Okay, it’s not nearly that bad, but it’s definitely far from good. After being added to the Illini family, Beckman had the responsiblity of acquiring new talent for the upcoming season and future seasons and convincing star players from last year to return for another season. Beckman was able to lock down four of last year’s defensive stars for one more season with the Illini.

Senior DE Michael Buchanan, DT Akeem Spence, CB Terry Hawthorne and future early first-rounder LB Jonathon Brown. Beckman has used his enthusiastic attitude to fire these guys up for one more go at a conference title. Unfortunately, it has just been reported that Michael Buchanan has a broken jaw. He was in an altercation on campus and had his jaw wired shut. I’m assuming Beck was probably the last person Buchanan wanted to call…if he could even talk.

It boggles my mind that anyone would want to start an issue with the monster that is Buchanan (6’6″, 240 lbs),but the good news is that he will be ready for the start of the season and possibly even preseason camp. Buchanan was fourth in the Big Ten in sacks last year. Last year the Illini not only had Buchanan, but Big Ten sack leader Whitney Mercilus as well. This gave them two of the top five pass rushers in the conference. They lost Mercilus to the draft, but losing Buchanan for part of the season due to an off-field issue would be devastating.

This awful news for the Illini came around the same time as a court decision that found former Illini running back Steven Feagin guilty of rape. DNA tests gave irrefutable evidence that Feagin was guilty of agrivated criminal sexual assault and he could face up to 90 years in prison.

I digress. In order to secure new recruits, Beckman has made it his priority to focus on players in a five-hour radius of Champaign. Cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville and even places stretching as far as Memphis are atop his list.

Illinois spent 10 of their 19 scholarships on defensive players this year. These freshman will help to bolster a team that is highly dependent on their defense.

A highlight of the group on the defensive end is Taylor Barton, a 6’1″ 200-lb DB from Orlando. Barton was a two-way threat in high school and is the kind of guy who can lay explosive hits on a ball carrier. His versatility may force the Illini to try him out at safety, where his combination of size and speed could become lethal with a bit of experience at the college level.

A guy who can help him learn quickly is Terry Hawthorne, who is 6′, 190-lb and also lays on monster hits. Barton has a 4.4 second 40 time, which allows him to stick with most speed receivers, but his inexperience will give him trouble on
some of the elite wideouts in the Big Ten.

On the other side of the ball, the Illini snagged Aaron Bailey out of Bolingbrook. He was the country’s No. 4 ranked dual-threat quarterback. Bailey had offers from other big-name schools including Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State. Bailey has a number of qualities that will prove to be huge for the Illini in the coming years.

Aside from his natural talent and athleticism, Bailey is a stand-up guy. His high school coach said that Bailey’s the type of guy to whom you would be comfortable marrying your daughter. Isn’t that what Elway said about Tebow when he traded him? I guess when a quarterback leaves the team the nicest thing to say is that you would let him marry your daughter. It’s kind of weird, but a nice gesture nonetheless. Bailey was a not only a state champion quarterback, but earned a 3.5 GPA. Bailey could be crucial for Illini recruiting in the future, epecially in their own state. Bailey reminds many of current U of I quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Both guys have good size, run the ball well and share similar religious beliefs.

They’re gonna need to have some good karma in check, because after last season and the recents events of this summer, who knows what’s in store for the upcoming season.

Follow on Twitter @Midwaymadness