Bulletin Board Material; December and November 2012 Archives



Tim Beckman announced the junior college portion of his 2013 recruiting class on Wednesday, a few names shorter than we might have expected to see, as of last week.  
Five junior college players will transfer to Illinois, each highly-rated in their positions compared to other JUCO players.  
"These men are coming to Champaign from winning programs around the country," Beckman said. "There are two national champions and several conference champions in the group. The most exciting part is that they fill immediate needs for us."  
Not surprising, since "immediate needs" covers about every position...   The Illinois coaching staff wasn't shy about the fact that they were going to going after a number of JUCO players, to not only fill those needs, but do it right away.  But even we, as recently as a week ago, had seven players on our list.  
Since, there have been two defections.  David Guthrie, the 10th-rated safety in the junior college ranks committed to Illinois on December 11th, but decommitted the following day, on which he committed to New Mexico.  
Kyle Kragen, a defensive end out of Diablo Valley CC committed to Illinois, but that was before he got an offer to play D1 football in his home state.  On Monday, he decommitted, and instead said he'd play at Cal.  
As it is, the group of five may not jump off the page at you, but my guess is that many will be expected to compete right away.  In that sense, they're worth getting to know.  
Here are the player capsules provided by Illinois Athletics:  
WR, 6-0, 190, Washington, D.C. / CalvinCoolidge HS / University of New Mexico / Iowa Western Community College

Remaining Eligibility: Will have 2 years to play 2 starting in 2013

Junior College Coach: Scott Strohmeier

High School Coach: Jason Lane

Intended Major: Communications

Illinois Academic Recruiting Assistant: Anthony Fontana – AssociateDirector, Undergraduate Admissions, College of Business

College/Junior College: Three-star recruit by Rivals … Ranked the No. 26 junior college wide receiver in the nation by 247 Sports  … Transferred to Iowa Western for the 2012 season after two seasons at the University of New Mexico … Had 31 receptions for 498 yards (16.1 ypc) and five touchdowns in 2012 … Helped lead Iowa Western to the NJCAA national championship and a Midwest Football Conference (MFC) title with a perfect 11-0 record … Played in 10 games at New Mexico in 2011, making eight catches for 79 yards and rushing for 40 yards on six carries on the season  …  Also started five games at safety and had 21 tackles, two TFLs and 2 PBUs … Played in the Lobos' 2010 season-opener at Oregon but suffered a hand injury that forced him to sit out the rest of the year.

High School: Helped Coolidge compile a 23-12 record over his final three years, including a playoff berth in 2008 … Had 35 receptions for 563 yards and six TDs as a senior in 2009 … First-team D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association selection by TheWashington Post and named one of the top 60 players in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area (DMV) after making 51 catches for 1,000 yards and nine TDs as a junior in 2008 … Also scored twice on punt returns in 2008 … Was a sprinter for the Colts' track team … Made the honor roll in 2009.

Beckman on Barr: "Martize brings a lot of game experience to our group of wide receivers. He has played on both sides of the ball at the Division I level and spent this past season in a very explosive offense at Iowa Western. Martize will work extremely hard to help the Fighting Illini in every way possible. He won a national championship this year, and that is the type of guys we want in our program."



DT, 6-3, 290, Miami, Fla. / North MiamiBeach HS / Central Connecticut State / Victor Valley College (CA)

Remaining Eligibility: Will have 2 years to play 2 starting in 2013

Junior College Coach: Dave Hoover

High School Coach: Jeff Bertani

Intended Major: Communications

Illinois Academic Recruiting Assistant: Jermaine Martinez – Graduate Teaching Assistant, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

College/Junior College: Three-star recruit by Rivals, Scout and 247 Sports … Ranked the No. 20 junior college defensive tackle in the country by 247 Sports … Played in only six games in 2012, totaling 14 tackles and a half-TFL … Played in eight games in 2011, making 17 tackles and four TFLs … Redshirted the 2010 season at Central Connecticut State before transferring to Victor Valley … One of the most sought after defensive tackles nationally.

High School: Helped North Miami Beach win district championships in 2006 and '07.

Beckman on Cajuste: "Abe gives us a big body on the defensive line. He will help add depth with the departure of several key seniors from the line. Abe's strength and his get-off were the things that we noticed when we originally watched the film. He plays to theecho of the whistle on every snap."



STAR, 6-1, 205, Corona, Calif. / Centennial HS /College of the Canyons (CA)

Remaining Eligibility: Will have 3 years to play 3 starting in 2013

Junior College Coach: Garrett Tojague

High School Coach: Matt Logan

Intended Major: Kinesiology

Illinois Academic Recruiting Assistant: Amy O'Neill – Undergraduate Advisor, College of Applied Health Sciences (Kinesiology and Community Health)

Junior College: Sat out the 2012 season due to injury … Played in seven games in 2011, making 19 tackles with one TFL, one interception and one pass break-up.

High School: Played wide receiver in high school before switching to defense in college.

Beckman on Finney: "Eric is a big safety that can play the star position for us. He is a big athlete who runs extremely well and will provide depth and competition on the defensive side of the ball, as well as on special teams. Getting Eric here for spring ball was a huge priority for us."



OL, 6-5, 275, Clive, Iowa / West Des Moines Valley HS / Iowa Western Community College

Remaining Eligibility: Will have 3 years to play 2 starting in 2013

Junior College Coach: Scott Strohmeier

High School Coach: Gary Swenson

Intended Major: Communications

Illinois Academic Recruiting Assistant: Annie White – Football Academic Advisor

Junior College: Three-star recruit by Rivals … Ranked the No. 18 junior college offensive tackle in the nation by 247 Sports … First-team NJCAA All-American in 2012 after helping Iowa Western to the NJCAA National Championship and a Midwest Football Conference (MFC) title with a perfect 11-0 record … Helped pave the way for an Iowa Western offensive that led the nation in points per game (62.8) and yards per game (598.4) in 2012 … Team went 9-2 and averaged 482 yards per game in 2011.

High School: Two-time CIML Iowa All-Conference selection … All-Des Moines Team selection as a senior.

Beckman on Hinkhouse: "We're excited to have Dallas join the program. We graduated two key players on the offensive line that played a lot of football in their careers here. Dallas comes from a great program in Iowa Western where he learned how to work and compete for the last two seasons. He has played in two bowl games and won a national championship, making him exactly the kind of guy we want involved in our program."



S, 6-1, 190, Corning, Calif. / Corning HS / Colorado State University / American River College (CA)

Remaining Eligibility: Will have 2 years to play 2 starting in 2013

Junior College Coach: Jerry Haflich

High School Coach: John Studer

Intended Major: Kinesiology

Illinois Academic Recruiting Assistant: Amy O'Neill – Undergraduate Advisor, College of Applied Health Sciences (Kinesiology and Community Health)

College/Junior College: Ranked the No. 11 junior college safety in the country by 247 Sports … Played in 11 games and racked up 90 tackles, seven interceptions – including one pick-six – and one fumble recovery as American River went 8-3 in 2012 … Was first-team All-Valley Conference in 2012 … Totaled 50 tackles and four interceptions in 2011 … Originally went to Colorado State and redshirted the 2010 season before transferring to American River.

High School: Played on both sides of the ball at Corning HS, leading the team with five interceptions as a senior … Also returned punts and kicks throughout his high school career.

Beckman on Petty: "Zane brings a lot of playing experience to a young secondary. He fills a critical need for us with the departure of several key seniors in the defensive backfield. We are excited to see Zane develop into a physical safety in ourdefense."

A Look At My Not-So-Exciting Heisman Ballot
Johnny Football had to win it.  Not only did he break records set by two former Heisman winners from the SEC, not only did he torch then-number 1 (and current number 2) Alabama, he has one of the best nicknames - that actually caught on - in college football.  This year, for the first time, I got to take part in the process, and in the end, I was lucky to be a part of history.
I watched the Heisman ceremony in suspense, as did most people.  I thought Manziel would win, and I thought Manti Te'o could win.  I also felt like Collin Klein, while putting together a great first 80 percent of a season with Kansas State, was just there to shake the winner's hand.  In the end, there are enough votes from enough corners of the country, I'll always believe the right person won, even if I didn't vote for them.
But just in case you were wondering. here's my ballot:
1.  Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
2.  Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
3.  Collin Klein, Kansas
If that looks familiar, it's because that's exactly how it turned out, so I know a lot of people felt that way.
We figured history was going to happen either way.  The first freshman, or the first player that exclusively played defense?  Of course, neither choice was wrong - and both choices were going to be met with some kind of opposition.  In the end, the offensive player won out again, but I don't think it was because he was an offensive player.  Obviously, this was as close as I've ever followed the top individuals in college football, and as much as I'd ever talked with other Heisman voters, sorted out the logic, and decided what defines the most "outstanding" player to me.  Unlike awards such as the "MVP" -- in which electors come up with their own definition of "value" -- this award is just about the player, which to me means, you don't have to play on the best team - of even one of the best teams - in the country.
I also found out that putting a player at number 1 in your ballot is perceived as hatred for number 2.  I liked Manti Te'o, and how could you not?  Between the challenges he faced off the field -- out of his control -- to his perseverance, and eventually leading an improbable Irish run to the national title game, I hope he wins every defensive award that exists.  In case you haven't noticed, he already is.
Each voter has their own opinion, and to me, there's something to touching the ball on every possession.  There's something to having control every single down when you're on the field.  Fair or not, this is why quarterbacks so often with the Heisman trophy. That much control gives you little margin for error, and if you excel in the position, as Manziel did, you deserve some recognition.  I also couldn't ignore the fact that when Tim Tebow set a new SEC total yardage record, he won the Heisman trophy.  Then, when Cam Newton broke Tebow's record, he won the Heisman - easily.  When Manziel broke Newton's record, the choice became clear.
I'm not necessarily a believer in "Heisman moments."  Manziel wasn't my Heisman pick because he beat Alabama, though it helped his body of work.  For the season reason, I don't think players can lose the Heisman based when they have a bad game.  A lot was made of his lackluster performances against Florida and LSU, one of them his first career game, the other against the no. 6 team in the country.  If anything, his struggles in those two games show me how outstanding he was in the rest, still putting together a record-breaking season.
Yes, timing is everything.  No one knew who Johnny Manziel was, including most Texas A&M fans, when the Aggies lost to Florida on Sept. 8.  Al Lesar, and writer for the South Bend Tribune correctly pointed out, Manziel's pedestrian efforts came early enough in the season - before the nickname "Johnny Football" came about - that he may have benefited from anonymity.  He argues the spotlight on Te'o came about so early, they each less-than-perfect performance by the linebacker knocked him down a peg on most Heisman lists.  That might be true to some degree.  Personally, I felt like Te'o was part of, and the leader of, one of the most outstanding defensive units in college football.  I thought Manziel was simply the most outstanding player.
Apologies to Collin Klein.  The K-State QB, standing alone, never really showed me he was a Heisman winner.  The field wasn't exactly stacked enough to make us think someone would sneak up on Manziel and Te'o.  I felt that Collin Klein was really good, but not outstanding.  I also felt Ohio State's Braxton Miller was really good, as were Oregon's Kenjon Barner, and Wisconsin's Montee Ball -- who was a finalist last year, finished the season as the nation's third-leading rusher, and never had a sniff from Heisman predictors this season.  Had Ball not been a finalist last year, the expectations would not have been nearly as high.  In a strange way, that may have helped him to New York this year.  Like I said, timing is everything.
Manziel has at least two more years of college football.  He'll enter 2013 as the likely favorite to win it again, which, in a strange way will put him at a disadvantage.  A bad week one game next season won't go unnoticed.  Last year's Heisman race comes to mind -- Andrew Luck came in as the favorite, and really, he met some historically high expectations.  The problem for him is that he didn't exceed them.  Robert Griffin III did, and ended up with the trophy.
As a voter, I hope I can keep that in perspective going forward.  If history tells us anything, the guy who'll win it in 2013 is probably someone we're not talking about yet.  I'm excited to find out.

Just How "Weak" is Illinois' Schedule?

It's been a long hiatus for the blog.  Between wrapping up the 2012 Illinois football season, catching up on the rest of the football world, and trying to figure out who's getting my vote for Heisman, it's been a busy couple of weeks.  I'll be blogging about my Heisman picks sometime next week, after Saturday's ceremony.

That said, it took my brain a solid week to be able to make the transition from football to basketball, and try to figure out exactly what to make of the start by the Illinois men's basketball team.

When Tim Beckman was making his final postgame lamentations in Evanston after a season-ending loss to Northwestern, the hoops team was just getting home from a productive trip to the Hawaiian islands, beating Hawaii, then sweeping their way to a Maui Invitational title with wins over USC, Chaminade, and Butler.  Traditionally the top early-season tournament, the Illini, rightfully so, earned quite a bit a notoriety following the tourney win. 

Almost immediately, though, writers began to put asterisks on the title of "2012 Maui Invite Champs" claiming the field wasn't as good this year.  Still, Illinois came out on top.

Since, they squeaked out a win over Gardner-Webb, beat Georgia Tech, and survived a scare against Western Carolina.  At 8-0, the Illini are ranked 13th in the country, and I believe deserve to keep climbing until someone beats them (I could be writing something entirely different after Saturday's game against #10 Gonzaga).  The Illini have enjoyed to fastest rise of any team in college basketball, going from completely off-the-radar to top 15 in a matter of two weeks, but once again, many in college basketball aren't quite ready to buy them as a top tier team.

Let's face it, many in Champaign aren't ready to buy it either.

Myron Medcalf, a college basketball writer for ESPN.com called the Illini the most overrated team in the top 25, citing their schedule.  At a glance, you really couldn't make a counter-argument.  None of Illinois' opponent are, or ever were, in the top 25 this season.

We'll make our own determination when March rolls around, but if the season ended today, the Illini would be in prime position for the NCAA Tournament -- likely a 3 or 4 seed.  In case you forgot, one of the main metrics used to pick the NCAA tournament field is the RPI (Rating Percentage Index), a measure of the combination of a team's schedule strength and performance.  Believe it or not, the Illini are 7th in RPI rankings (you can see the complete list of 347 teams here).  Illinois' schedule strength ranks 40th, and only Indiana (58th) has had an easier schedule among teams with top-10 RPI rankings.  The Hoosiers, despite being #1 in all major rankings, make the RPI list at #10.

When every team is seeded on Selection Sunday, that number will be important, as will a team's record against other teams on the list.  Right now, Illinois does have a win over a top-10 RPI team -- Butler ranks 8th.  Their next best win is against Georgia Tech (RPI 51).

Here's a look at the RPI rankings for their other opponents (Division I only):

Colgate: 169th
St. Francis: 144th
Hawaii: 215th
USC: 121st
Gardner-Webb: 119
Western Carolina: 216th

That list is why most aren't ready to buy into the Illini just yet.  Gonzaga's RPI is 21, so a win this Saturday would change the national perception of Illinois from "feel good story" to "contender" in a hurry. Illinois will get plenty more chances to beat highly-rated teams in the RPI during Big Ten conference season -- they'll get 6 games against teams currently in the RPI top 20.  Winning even a couple of those would go a long way.

And don't forget, the perception of the conference means a lot, and no conference is more respected right now than the Big 10.  A 9-9 record in the conference could be plenty good enough to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. It wouldn't hurt if Butler and Georgia Tech went on to have great seasons, either.

Lastly, nit-picking with things like RPI rankings, and wins against RPI top 100, top 50, etc. is for those "bubble teams" which, if the season ended today, the Illinois certainly would not be.

There's a lot of basketball left to play, but the fact that this debate is even happening is a promising sign.

There's one weekend left for our local volleyball teams -- and just a couple more for football.  As we come down to the wire, there are now just a handful of teams from the WAND coverage area left... few enough to fit on this quick blog post.
Soccer season wrapped up over the weekend, and there must be something in the water at the soccer fields in Urbana!  Urbana-University and Urbana High School wrapped up state runner-up finishes in the 1A and 2A, respectively.  I know falling short of a state title was disappointing, but both teams had fantastic seasons, and we hope to see them in the bracket again next year!
Here's to some more exciting finishes this fall!
1A Quarterfinals
Concord-Triopia @ LeRoy - Sat., 1:00 PM
Carrollton @ Maroa-Forsyth - Sat., 1:30 PM
2A Quarterfinals
Casey Westfield @ Belleville-Althoff Catholic - Sat., 7:00 PM
3A Quarterfinals
Tolono-Unity @ Williamsville - Sat., 2:00 PM
4A Quarterfinals
Rochester @ Peoria-Notre Dame - Sat., 6:00 PM
5A Quarterfinals
Glenwood @ Sacred Heart-Griffin - Sat., 1:00 PM
VOLLEYBALL - All semifinal matches on Friday (11/9) at Redbird Arena in Normal:
1A State Semifinals
Mt. Pulaski vs. Valmeyer - 9am
3A State Semifinals
Champaign-Centennial vs. Wheaton-St. Francis - 4:30pm
Richmond vs. Jacksonville - 6pm
The best place for scores, schedules and brackets is the IHSA ScoreZone, and we'll be following all of our teams as they go for state titles.  You can also go onto Facebook and "like" our Friday Frenzy page.  We'll be keeping everyone updated as the scores come in!

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