After a few days in camp, it seems that Beckman’s loud, but serious personality has been received well by his players. He is excited about being the coach in Champaign and it looks like he has convinced the team that they can be winners.
Beckman has spoken many times about the importance of competition among his players. It looks like the one thing that Beckman is truly set on, is that nothing is truly set. He is determined to put the best players on the field, even if this means getting a little creative to do it.
Something we saw is a serious switch on the offensive line. Graham Pocic was an All-Big Ten honorable mention at center last year, but has moved to left guard and will block beside Hugh Thorton (LT), who was previously a guard. Jake Feldmeyer, who saw the first playing time of his career last year against South Dakota State,X has taken the reins at center.
Michael Heitz, who made nine starts at strong-side tackle last year, lined up at right guard, and Simon Cvijanovic was starting at right tackle. Cvijanovic played in eight games last year and started in four. While this change is not set in stone, Beckman believes it gives the team a strong left side, increasing pass protection while still benefiting the run game.
“We’re trying to create the best players on the football field we possibly can,” the first-year head coach said. “So you saw Hugh Thornton at tackle and Graham Pocic at guard. We’re going to do whatever is necessary to get the best five.”
Adding Ryan Klachko, who is considering transferring to Illinois (from Nebraska), could really shake things up as well.
Beckman believes that competition between his players is what will make this team successful. O’Toole and Osei have been getting plenty of reps at QB and there’s a good chance that we see a lot of them this year. Tommy Davis has really stepped up at safety and brings a lot of experience after playing four years at Northern Illinois.
Davis will also be featured in the return game. Speaking of special teams, it seems that it is a big focus for Beckman and his staff. Last year’s abysmal special team’s production will be hard to emulate and Beckman is focused on making sure that doesn’t happen. Losing Derek Dimke is not something that will help the cause, but Ryan Frain, a freshman with a big leg is battling for the kicking job with three others–including sophomore Nick Immekus.
During the last 30 minutes of Monday’s practice, Beckman blasted music through loud speakers to help give a loud stadium feel. Featured during this interesting strategic ploy was “Whistle” by Flo Rida.
“I’ve always done that. I think it’s important that the players learn we’ll be inside stadiums that are 60,000 to 100,000. We have to be able to communicate and it’s important they can do that not just verbally, but through hand signals.”
Beckman’s focus, energy and drive are very reassuring signs for skeptical fans. Hopefully it’s not just wishful thinking and the first year coach can really prove something this season. We’ll find out come September what the Illini are made of.
Follow on Twitter @Midwaymadness