It's time to have an Illinois Fighting Illini thread, don't you think?
It's time to have an Illinois Fighting Illini thread, don't you think?
Illinois loses 49-36 to No. 5 Cincinnati
CINCINNATI -- Illinois failed to slow No. 5 Cincinnati's high-powered offense, losing 49-36 at Nippert Stadium on Friday. Illinois' defense allowed the most points of the season despite Cincinnati's ineptitude to run the ball, staying in negative rushing yardage through most of the fourth quarter.
Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike had a career day, throwing for six touchdown passes and 399 yards.
A 21-yard touchdown pass to Mardy Gilyard had to be reviewed because it looked like his foot was out of the back of the end zone when he had control of the ball on the one-handed catch. Officials ruled it a completion with 4 minutes 19 seconds to go to remain undefeated.
Illinois closed to within 42-30 at the start of the fourth quarter on a two-yard touchdown run by Juice Williams.
Williams connected with Fred Sykes in the end zone with less than three minutes remaining to trail 49-36. A two-point conversion attempt bounced out of Chris Duvalt's hands and was picked off in the end zone by Cincinnati.
Illinois AD says coaching changes will set path to bowls -- chicagotribune.com
Illinois AD says coaching changes will set path to bowls
Expects addition of Vic Koenning on defense and Paul Petrino on offense to provide big boost to football program
From Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther's perspective, the Illini can transform from a 3-9 season to annual bowl contenders after the recent changes to the football coaching staff.
"You can sustain a bowl program," Guenther said. "I don't know if you can reach the top of the hill every year. I see no reason for this program not to be in the bowl business every year. I feel good about what we've done here."
Guenther said the assistant coaches who recently were hired, including offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, were selected to help relieve head coach Ron Zook of some responsibilities.
"If you look at the best programs in the country, you have real strength in those coordinator positions," Guenther said. "They take their own shape. That allows (Zook) to tweak things as opposed to having to get too involved in any one area."
Guenther acknowledged the program was heading in the wrong direction but said firing Zook was not the answer. Zook took the Illini to the 2008 Rose Bowl, but four of his five seasons at Illinois have resulted in losing records.
"We've made a big investment in coach Zook," Guenther said. "He knows the academics. He knows the philosophy. He knows the institution. He's well grounded. If this works the way it might work, and I feel very comfortable that it has a great chance of working, we'll be back a lot faster."
Illinois fired four assistant coaches and demoted co-defensive coordinators Curt Mallory and Dan Disch to position coaches. Koenning, who spent last season at his alma mater, Kansas State, as a co-defensive coordinator, was introduced Friday as their replacement.
Guenther said former head coach Ron Turner was not willing to make such staff adjustments.
Koenning considered taking the same job at Georgia, but a deal with the Illini was finalized late Thursday night.
"There was some dialogue and it made for an interesting 16, 18 hours you could say," Koenning said. "When push comes to shove, the character and the drive and enthusiasm of coach Zook was evident and made (me have) no doubt in the outcome."
All of the assistants hired were given two-year contracts, Guenther said. He and Zook have not decided yet who will handle the special teams.
The Illini hope Koenning can improve their defense considerably as he did those at Kansas State and Clemson. The Illini finished last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (allowing 30.2 ppg) and total defense (403.2 ypg).
The Wildcats went from 117th to 40th in total defense nationally. From 2005 to '08, Clemson finished in the top 25 in scoring defense, total defense and pass efficiency defense.
Petrino Named Offensive Coordinator - FIGHTINGILLINI.COM // THE OFFICIAL HOME OF UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS ATHLETICS
Petrino Named Offensive Coordinator
Former Arkansas OC joins Zook's Fighting Illini staff
University of Illinois head football coach Ron Zook announced the hiring of Paul Petrino, former Arkansas offensive coordinator, to serve in the same capacity for the Fighting Illini. Petrino brings with him 18 years of collegiate experience and an impressive offensive background, which includes national top-10 rankings in scoring and total offense.
"I am extremely pleased about this hire," Zook said. "Paul is a young, talented offensive mind, who has had great success at every step in his career. He has proven himself with great offensive numbers and rankings, but what makes him most impressive is his ability to develop players and the strong relationships he has forged along the way. His offense is exciting and fun, both for the players and for the fans at Memorial Stadium."
"It has been an honor to help guide a new path at the University of Arkansas and I will always be grateful to my brother, Bobby, Athletic Director Jeff Long and the entire Razorback community for the opportunity I was given," Petrino said. "But now it is time to take on a new challenge, and I look forward to helping Coach Zook take the Fighting Illini back to the Rose Bowl and compete for national championships. This is an incredible opportunity for my family and our work in Champaign is underway."
Last season, Arkansas averaged 37 points per game, which ranked eighth in the NCAA, while also posting top-15 rankings in passing offense at No. 10 (303.3 ypg) and total offense at No. 14 (439.3 ypg). Razorbacks' quarterback Ryan Mallet was the nation¹s sixth-rated passer, averaging 285 yards per contest and throwing 29 touchdown passes. UA also had two receivers average over 60 yards a game, helping lead the squad to a Liberty Bowl bid. The Razorbacks broke the school record for passing yards with 3,640, eclipsing the previous record that was set under Petrino in 2008. The 2008 season also saw Arkansas produce its ninth 1,000-yard rusher in the history of the program when Michael Smith recorded 1,072 yards.
Petrino coached at Louisville from 2003-06 and in 2007 with the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League. He was the receivers coach in Atlanta after working the four previous years as offensive coordinator and receivers coach at Louisville. Playing for Petrino in Atlanta, Roddy White enjoyed the best season of his NFL career with 83 catches for 1,202 yards.
His teams at Louisville averaged 41.1 points per game over his four seasons--34.6 in 2003, 49.8 in 2004, 43.3 in 2005 and 37.8 in 2006. While he was at Louisville, the Cardinals and Texas Tech were the only two schools in the nation to rank in the top 10 nationally in total offense for four straight seasons (2003-06). In 50 games at Louisville, Petrino's teams went 41-9 and scored 40 or more points 28 times, 50 or more 14 times and 60 or more seven times.
In 2006, when the Cardinals went 12-1, won the Big East Conference title, beat No. 12 Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl and finished the year ranked No. 6 in the nation, Louisville was second in the country in total offense (475.3 ypg), seventh in passing (290.0 ypg) and fourth in scoring (37.8 ppg). One of his players, Harry Douglas, recorded 70 receptions and set a school record with 1,265 yards in earning first-team All-Big East honors.
In 2005, Louisville (9-3) was ninth in the nation in offense (482.1) and third in scoring (43.4 ppg) with six offensive players earning first-team all-conference honors. Running back Michael Bush led the nation with 24 touchdowns, while receiver Joshua Tinch was a first-team All-Big East selection and receiver Mario Urrutia was second in the nation in yards per catch.
The 2004 team, which won the Conference USA title, beat No. 10 Boise State in the Liberty Bowl, 44-40, finished 11-1, ended the year ranked No. 7 in the nation, led the nation in total offense (539.0 ypg) and scoring offense (49.8 ppg), and set an NCAA record by scoring 55 or more points in five straight games. The Cardinals set school records for total yards, rushing yards and points in a season (597) in 2004 also scoring 50 or more points seven times. Receiver J.R. Russell earned all-conference honors for the second straight-season after catching 73 passes. Russell had 75 receptions for a school-record 1,213 yards in 2003, when the Cardinals went 9-4.
Petrino began his coaching career as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Carroll College, in his hometown of Helena, Mont. He worked for his father, Bob, Sr., at Carroll in 1990 and 1991.
He coached at Idaho for the next three years (1992-94), where he tutored receivers (1993-94), running backs (1992) and special teams. As running backs coach in '92, he coached Sherriden May, who earned All-America honors and led all I-AA players with 150 points scored while rushing for 1,111 yards.
He moved to Utah State for the next three seasons (1995-97) as receivers coach and special teams coordinator. In '95, receiver Kevin Alexander finished second in the nation in receptions and third in receiving yards.
In 1998, Petrino went to Louisville for two years in his first stint on the Cardinal staff. In 1998, with older brother Bobby coaching quarterbacks and Paul coaching receivers, UL set records for points (473), scoring average (39.4), touchdowns, passing yards, passing touchdowns, pass attempts, completions and total offense.
As receivers coach and special teams coordinator, Petrino led Louisville to 7-5 finishes in 1998 and '99, and earned bowl bids both seasons. Under Petrino's watch, Arnold Jackson had 90 catches for 1,165 yards in '98 and 101 receptions for 1,209 yards in '99. Petrino coached three wide receivers who set single-season yardage records at Louisville. Jackson totaled 1,209 yards in 1999, Russell broke the record in 2003 with 1,213 yards and Douglas set the record in 2006 with 1,265 yards.
From 2000-02, he was the quarterbacks coach at Southern Mississippi. In his three seasons, the Golden Eagles went 8-4, 6-5 and 7-6 with two bowl bids.
Born in Butte, Mont., on May 25, 1967, Petrino was a four-year starter at quarterback for his father at Carroll College from 1985-88. He set 16 school records, earned Kodak All-America honors and was named the Football Gazette NAIA Division II Player of the Year as a senior. In Petrino's four seasons, Carroll was 36-6 and won four Frontier Conference titles. He was an all-conference and all-region selection all four years and was a two-time All-American.
Petrino and his wife, Maya, have two daughters, Anne Mari and Ava, and a son, Mason. Anne Mari and Mason are twins.
Koenning Named Defensive Coordinator - FIGHTINGILLINI.COM // THE OFFICIAL HOME OF UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS ATHLETICS
Koenning Named Defensive Coordinator
Watch VIDEO of Director of Athletics Ron Guenther meeting with the media
Watch VIDEO of Koenning press conference
University of Illinois head football coach Ron Zook announced Friday the hiring of former Kansas State defensive coordinator, Vic Koenning (pronounced CONE-ing) to serve in the same capacity on the Fighting Illini coaching staff.
"I am very excited about this hiring," Zook said. "Vic has had great success wherever he has been and has tremendous experience rebuilding defensive units. When you talk to him, you can't help but see his passion for the game and get excited about playing for him. He will be a great addition to this staff."
"I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to work with Coach Zook and improve the defense," Koenning said. "The talent is there so I am excited to see how far we can take this team. I am up for the challenge and excited about improving every day. "
One of the nation's top defensive coaches, Koenning comes to Illinois after one season at Kansas State. In 2009, he helped the Wildcats' improve from 112th in the NCAA in rushing defense in 2008 to 16th in 2009, total defense from 117th to 40th and scoring defense from 110th to 48th. The squad allowed 140 yards fewer last season than in 2008 and 12 points per game less than the previous year.
During his career at Clemson, Koenning accomplished something no other Tiger defensive coordinator had accomplished in the school's football history. Each of his four defenses from 2005-2008 finished in the top 25 in scoring, total, and pass efficiency defense each season.
In 2008, Clemson's defense led the ACC in scoring defense and ranked ninth in the nation by allowing just 16.6 points per game. The unit also was 12th in the nation in pass defense, 11th in pass efficiency defense, tied for eighth in interceptions and 16th in total defense.
Koenning, a 1983 Kansas State graduate, had productive defenses at Clemson that took advantage of the talents of players from different positions. His first defense in 2005 featured first-round draft pick Tye Hill, a cornerback now with the St. Louis Rams, while his 2006 defense featured defensive end Gaines Adams, the No. 4 overall selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His 2007 unit featured another defensive end in Phillip Merling, who was the No. 32 overall selection of the 2008 draft by Miami.
With nine underclassmen in the starting lineup for most of the season, the 2007 defensive performance might have been the best of his tenure at Clemson. Clemson had just one player make first or second-team All-ACC, yet the Tigers led the ACC in pass defense and turnover margin, and they finished second in total defense and scoring defense. Clemson was ninth in the nation in total defense, allowing just 307 yards per game, and 10th in scoring defense, giving up 18.7 points per outing.
In 2006, Clemson finished 13th in the nation in total defense, its highest mark since the 1991 team finished fourth. Clemson was 18th in rushing defense, 24th in pass defense (yards), 17th in pass efficiency defense, 20th in sacks and 16th in scoring defense. It marked the first time since 1990 that Clemson finished in the top 20 in the four major defensive categories in the same year.
A highlight in 2006 took place during Clemson's 31-7 win over No. 13 Georgia Tech as the Tiger secondary held Georgia Tech All-American and No. 2 overall draft pick Calvin Johnson without a reception for the only time in his collegiate career.
The Tigers showed great improvement over the course of the 2005 season, Koenning's first at Clemson. The defense allowed 11.5 points per game in the last seven games, a big reason the Tigers went 6-1 in those contests. During that stretch, the defense held No. 16 Florida State and No. 19 South Carolina without an offensive touchdown. He became the first defensive coordinator to keep those two noted offensive minds without a touchdown in the same season. The 2005 season concluded with a 19-10 win over Colorado in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Tigers held the Buffaloes to 124 yards of total offense and just 17 rushing yards, the best bowl game defensive performance of the 56 Division I-A teams in the postseason. Clemson allowed only one touchdown in its last 45 defensive possessions that season.
Koenning came to Clemson prior to the 2005 season with a strong résumé. He led Troy's defense to a top-10 national finish in scoring defense, rushing defense, yards per play, and pass efficiency defense in 2004. Troy's defense led the nation in interceptions (25), tied for second in turnovers forced (32), was ninth in fewest yards allowed per play, and finished 16th in total defense (311.0). Only USC had more takeaways than Troy.
He spent two seasons at Troy as the defensive coordinator under head coach Larry Blakeney. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Wyoming from 2000-02. He coached 10 Cowboy players who earned first-team all-conference honors in his five seasons in Laramie, including three years as head coach and two years as defensive coordinator.
Koenning served as a full-time assistant coach working with the defensive backs at Memphis from 1991-96. In his first year, he helped the Tigers to a 24-10 upset at No. 14 Southern California. His second season there saw the defense finish third in the nation in total defense and 15th in scoring defense.
The Tigers enjoyed another successful year on defense in 1993, as Koenning's unit was 16th in the nation in total defense. In 1994, the Tigers were third in the nation in total defense and eighth in scoring defense. His final year at Memphis was highlighted by a 21-17 upset of No. 6 Tennessee. Koenning spent 10 years in all at Memphis. From 1988-90, he worked as a graduate assistant and strength training coach with the football program.
A three-year starter and team captain at Kansas State, Koenning was the recipient of the Paul Coffman Award, presented to the Wildcat who displays the most outstanding leadership. Koenning was third on the team with 93 total tackles as a senior.
Koenning, a native of Owasso, Okla., pursued a playing career with the Denver Broncos, Oklahoma Outlaws (USFL), and Green Bay Packers between 1983-86 before starting work on his master's degree at Memphis in 1986. He later received his master's in athletic administration from Memphis in 1989. Koenning and his wife, Tracey, have four children, Kimberly, Brady, Camden, and Jackson.
Ron Zook says Illinois recruiting class will surprise - chicagotribune.com
Zook says Illinois recruiting class will surprise Coach lauds signees, despite losing several high profile in-state players
It's never a good sign when the focus of signing day is on which players a team did not land.
That was the case at Illinois, which lost out on some highly touted in-state recruits and finished with one of its lowest recruiting scores in years.
Facing more negative recruiting than ever at Illinois, coach Ron Zook said he expects the class of 20 to defy expectations.
"This class is going to surprise a lot of people down the road," he said.
Still, the Illini must be smarting over losing Proviso East safety Corey Cooper, ranked No. 6 overall in the state by Rivals.com.
Cooper originally committed to Illinois but announced Wednesday he will attend Nebraska. He also considered Notre Dame.
Illinois' class was ranked No. 69 nationally by Rivals.com and No. 60 by Scout.com. Both Web sites listed the Illini eighth out of 11 Big Ten teams.
Zook said about trying to combat negative recruiting, "That's part of it," and he promised that "you'll feel good about these guys."
The Illini, who finished 3-9 last season and missed out on a bowl game for a second straight year, are entering a pivotal season after Zook replaced several assistant coaches.
Quarterback Chandler Whitmer, who played at Downers Grove South, highlights the group as the only four-star signee. He enrolled early at Illinois to get a head start on the offense under new coordinator Paul Petrino.
Whitmer, ranked No. 8 in Illinois, will compete for the starting job against sophomore Jacob Charest and redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase.
While Zook said none of the signees was unexpected, he did get two players whose decisions came down to the wire.
Three-star safety Earnest Thompson from Michigan picked Illinois over Minnesota and Wisconsin, while three-star receiver Darius Millines of Florida selected the Illini instead of West Virginia and Marshall.
With two quarterbacks — Mount Prospect's Miles Osei also signed — and five offensive linemen, the Illini added depth to the offense. Shawn Afryl and Alex Hill are three-star linemen with potential.
But blue-chip recruits such as top-rated receiver Kyle Prater from Proviso West (Southern California), top-rated tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz from Johnsburg (Iowa) and receiver Matt Milton from Mascoutah (Tennessee) all considered Illinois — Fiedorowicz even committed — but chose to leave the state.
Illinois guard sidelined for scouting combine - Chicago Breaking Sports
Illinois guard sidelined for scouting combine
ProFootballTalk.com reports: Illinois offensive guard Jon Asamoah suffered a shoulder injury at the Senior Bowl that will prevent him from working out at the NFL scouting combine. Although Asamoah's agent, Joe Panos, said that the lineman doesn't need surgery, he won't be able to participate in the scouting combine.
Asamoah is expected to be healthy enough to conduct an individual workout in early April.
Illini Begin Spring Practice - FIGHTINGILLINI.COM // THE OFFICIAL HOME OF UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS ATHLETICS
Illini Begin Spring Practice
Spring FB Begins
March 30, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini opened up the spring football season on Tuesday with a two-hour practice on a beautiful afternoon in Champaign. The team wore shorts and helmets for individual workouts and non-contact drills.
It marked the first practice for new coordinators Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning and four other new assistant coaches.
"Spring practice is great," said new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. "You don't have the pressure of a game on you. You get to come out and coach the fundamentals extremely hard and not worry about the schemes. It's just really focused on fundamentals and getting the guys to run to the ball hard and do some things they maybe don't like to do."
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino also like what he saw on day one of spring ball.
"There were some things that we saw out there that we liked," Petrino said. "Everybody was flying around and giving great effort. For the first day learning a new offense there were some good things. We just look forward to continuing to improve."
The Illini resume spring ball with the second of 14 practices on Thursday afternoon.
2010 Illinois Spring Football Schedule
Illinois football: Martez Wilson back from neck injury, ready to produce - chicagotribune.com
Illini's Wilson back, pumped to produce
Linebacker has recovered from neck injury, ready to hit
CHAMPAIGN — Convincing everyone he can hit again will come this week. Convincing everyone he can dominate a game again will come next month.
The only person Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson doesn't feel like he needs to convince about his ability to come back from a neck injury is himself.
"I'm not worried about nothing," Wilson said. "I'm very comfortable. I'm confident in my neck and my body as well."
Wilson, a Simeon grad, sat out Illinois' 3-9 campaign to recover from a herniated disk suffered in the first game of the season to Missouri. Last year, Illini coach Ron Zook predicted it would be Wilson's season to shine.
Now, they're hoping this is the year that prophesy is realized.
Wilson thinks it can be.
"I'm emotionally stronger now than I've ever been," he said. "I had to take constructive criticism from my fans and everyone."
Zook is adamant that Wilson is 100 percent healthy and should suffer no setbacks.
"That injury is over," Zook told reporters at Illinois media day on Sunday. "He's fine. Everyone wants to dwell on it. … Obviously, the better he is (playing), the better we are. If he plays the way he's capable of playing, you guys will consider it a breakout year. "
Wilson's time in Champaign has not taken the steady ascension many predicted when he picked Illinois over Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State, Miami, Florida and Michigan. He played in all 13 games as a freshman, finishing with 29 tackles, and added 69 tackles as a sophomore.
Following his sophomore season, he was the victim of a stabbing in the offseason that required surgery. Just when he expected to get back on track last season, an on-field collision derailed him.
Wilson felt numbness after colliding with two linemen on the first drive in the opener against Missouri, but typical of Wilson he continued to play and finished with nine tackles.
He later knew something more serious was wrong when he felt numbness in his left hand and arm.
"Of course it's scary," he said. "The whole ride back from Mizzou, I was shaking my head that I didn't feel right. The feeling I had, I couldn't feel my body for like 30 seconds. I felt blessed even to have my feeling back."
He sat out the rest of the season, undergoing surgery to fix a herniated disk between his third and fourth vertebrae. Wearing a neck brace for a two-week period felt like an eternity.
Wilson was cleared by doctors to work out in the spring and given permission for hitting on July 29. When players experience their first live practice at Camp Rantoul this week, watch out.
"I spent the whole year sitting on the sidelines, sitting at home," Wilson said. "Not being able to help at all, that hurt the most."
Wilson, Davie make Butkus watch list - Chicago Colleges Blog - ESPN Chicago
Wilson makes Butkus watch list
Illinois junior Martez Wilson and Northwestern senior Quentin Davie were named to the Butkus Award watch list on Tuesday.
The award, which is named after former Illinois linebacker Dick Butkus, is given to the nation’s top linebacker. Fifty-one players were named to the watch list.
Wilson, who is 6-4 and 250 pounds, was also named to the list last season before suffering a herniated disc in Illinois’ season-opener against Missouri. He sat out the rest of the season. As a sophomore, he recorded 73 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss.
“Having Martez back there is a big, big plus and big bonus,” Illinois coach Ron Zook recently said. “Injuries are part of the game, but when you lose a guy like Martez who was clearly the leader of the defense in the first game that made a big, big difference. He’s back. He’s excited.”
Illinois linebackers Dana Howard and Kevin Hardy won the award in 1993 and 1994.
Davie, who is 6-4 and 230 pounds, had a team-best 90 tackles and a 11.5 tackles for a loss last season. He was especially impressive in the Outback Bowl with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and a pass breakup.
“I talked to the football gods before that game,” Davie recently said. “It was like just fly around. I just ran around. It was fun. I did my job and good things happened. It was kind of a catalyst for this season. I kind of look back to that game and wonder why didn’t I play like that the whole year. This year I’m sure I’ll be flying around like that every game.”
After being injured last season, much is expected from Martez Wilson this year.