Hoge On College Football: Seriously, What Is Going On In Champaign?
By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) It’s been a bizarre year for the Illinois football program to say the least.
And things just got weirder.
I give you this note from Herb Gould in Monday’s Sun-Times:
One co-offensive coordinator, Chris Beatty, calls first and second down, and the other, Billy Gonzales, calls third down. But all the calls are approved by the entire offensive staff, Beckman indicated. And you can be sure the head coach also has his finger in the pie.
Having co-coordinators in college football is not uncommon, but I’ve never heard of two coordinators splitting up the play-calling by down. Of course, I didn’t play college football. But former Iowa Hawkeye and NFL safety Matt Bowen did.
“I’ve never heard of that in all my stops in football,” Bowen, a 670 The Score contributor, told me this week.
Bowen confirmed what I have always seen and been told about game-day coaching: The assistants have plenty of input on what can be done differently from series to series, what areas of the field are open, and what matchups can be exploited.
But two offensive coaches calling plays at the same time? No way.
So where is Beckman getting this philosophy from? It’s hard to tell. Three different members of the Toledo media contingency said they had never heard of the Rockets calling plays like that when Beckman was there. This is not surprising because current Toledo head coach Matt Campbell was/is clearly in charge of the offense and the biggest reason for Rockets’ success.
What’s not a surprise is that the Illini offense currently ranks 115th out of 120 teams.
Now, I’m usually not one to call for a coach to be fired, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more evidence that a head coach is in over his head.
The problem is, Illinois has dug a hole so deep, it can’t really get itself out now. There is significant pressure from boosters right now for change, but their anger appears to directed more at Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas than Tim Beckman.
And that’s where it should be.
But don’t expect change in Champaign. The school can’t really afford it right now and Thomas’ fate will ultimately be decided more by the success of John Groce and the Illinois basketball team. And given the Top 25 recruiting class Groce just pulled in, there will be patience at Assembly Hall.
Unfortunately it looks like there will just be losing at Memorial Stadium.
Twelve straight Big Ten losses and counting…
- Speaking of pressure, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald faces more and more criticism every time the Wildcats blow a fourth quarter lead. That’s natural, but anyone suggesting Northwestern should make a change at head coach needs to have their head examined. The truth is that the ‘Cats are just three stops away from being undefeated. They haven’t been that close to a perfect record at this time of the year since they blew that fourth quarter lead to Miami Ohio in 1995.
Think before you speak, Wildcats fans. Fitzgerald has the Northwestern program headed in the right direction. It’s a slow and steady process, but be patient.
- This Saturday, on Senior Day, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball could break the NCAA all-time touchdown record. With 77 career touchdowns, he trails former Miami Ohio running back Travis Prentice by one. The Badgers will also be looking to end Ohio State’s undefeated season, but it won’t be easy. Frankly, I’m shocked UW is a 3-point favorite, even though they are at home.
- I still think Oregon is built to avoid an upset because the offense is as close to unstoppable as I’ve ever seen in college football, but their defense is in rough shape. Safety Avery Patterson suffered a torn ACL last week and he was already filling in for John Boyett, one of their better players who suffered a season-ending injury earlier in the year. The depth chart is so thin that reports out of Oregon this week have star running back/wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas taking reps at cornerback and backup quarterback Bryan Bennett getting work in the secondary and on special teams.
Both Thomas and Bennett are extraordinary athletes and some considered Thomas a five-star corner out of college. I would think he’d be really rusty at the position and both will probably only play defense in an emergency, but it sure would be fun to see Thomas get his hands on an interception and do his thing.
- Meanwhile, there continues to be speculation that Oregon head coach Chip Kelly will make the jump to the NFL after the season. I really don’t get it. I understand why he would want to go to the NFL, but I don’t understand why an NFL team would covet him. He’s been running the same offense since he was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire from 1999-2006. Now, you’d be surprised to know that Kelly actually uses more pro-style concepts in his spread offense than one would assume, and I know he’s a smart enough coach to adapt, but don’t we have enough evidence that spread concepts rarely work in the NFL? The argument saying “Wait until you see what he can do with NFL talent” doesn’t really apply, because NFL players can’t run what he does.
Kelly is a college football innovator right now and I think it would be wise for him to do what he does best at this level, not the next. Of course, I’d love to see him prove me wrong.
- Congratulations to Northern Illinois for winning its third straight MAC West title. They’ll play in the MAC Championship Nov. 30 in Detroit and if Purdue is wise, they’ll hire Dave Doeren the next day. And by the way, NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch is a fourth junior. Any chance he can graduate and play immediately for Doeren next year at Purdue?
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.