Back-to-back winning seasons at Toledo and the top scoring offense in the MAC opened the eyes to many at the job Tim Beckman was doing with the Rockets. In three years on the job Beckman had Toledo snapping four consecutive losing seasons and turning around one of the worst scoring offenses in the league to one of the most prolific. The three-year tenure in the MAC made Beckman, a former assistant under Jim Tressel in his coaching career, one of the rising names in coaching rumor mills, and Illinois took the plunge.
Then, Illinois took another plunge.
Beckman was supposed to be a guy who get the Illini to get over the hump of mediocrity. Ron Zook had led the Illini to consecutive 7-6 seasons (Zook did not get credit for Illini bowl victory in 2011) after a pair of losing seasons. With the Big Ten expanding and opening up division play it was clear being mediocre was no longer acceptable at Illinois. But after one 2-10 season under Beckman the pressure is on now to make some drastic changes.
It wasn't supposed to go this way at Illinois. Year two of the Tim Beckman regime in Champaign now has a long way to go to recover as the Big Ten continues to grow.
What Went Right: While there were few bright spots for Illinois in 2012, running back Donovonn Young was certainly one of them. The sophomore led the Illini in rushing with 571 yards and three touchdowns. He also added another 172 receiving yards and should give Illinois something to work with on offense in 2013.
Freshman linebacker Mason Monheim led the defense in tackles with 33 solo and 53 assisted tackles (86 total). Having gained a good amount of playing time early on should pay off down the road.
What went wrong? Just about everything else. It started before the season began when Illinois sent a bulk of the coaching staff to Penn State's campus to recruit players to switch programs in the wake of NCAA sanctions in State College. Though legal, the strategy was widely criticized and ended up resulting in just one transfer (red-shirt freshman OL Ryan Nowicki). When Penn State arrived for a road game, the Nittany Lions pummeled Beckman's team 35-7.
The Illini ranked dead last in the Big Ten in scoring offense (16.7 ppg), 11th in scoring defense (32.1 ppg), 12th in total offense (296.7 ypg) and 10th in total defense (287.6 ypg). Illinois also tied for last in the Big Ten in turnover margin (-12, Nebraska) with twice as much of a differential than the season prior to Beckman's arrival. Toledo had been third in the MAC in turnover differential the year before with a +7. For a former defensive coordinator and one who was supposed to enhance the offense at Illinois, quite simply Beckman was a total failure in his debut.
Where do things go from here? Illinois recently just signed a recruiting class that looks OK, ranked 46th overall but just eighth in the Big Ten according to the 247 Sports Composite. A full recruiting class of 25 players lacks star power but helps provide some depth for a roster that looked to be relatively young.
The jury should still be out on Beckman of course despite having one of the more miserable college football coaching debuts with his new team in 2012. We do one thing for sure though and that is Beckman needs to right the ship quickly. The 2013 schedule is not the kindest, with non-conference games against Cincinnati and Washington (in Chicago's Soldier Field) and road Big Ten games at Nebraska and Penn State as well as home games against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Tim Beckman's First-Year Coaching Grade: F
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