CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - There is no quarterback controversy at Illinois this spring. Wes Lunt is the guy and that comes with responsibility. "I think just taking more accountability on and off the field," Lunt said of his increased leadership role. "Just trying to do everything right and try and be a leader."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Former Illinois quarterback Aaron Bailey has found a new football home. Bailey will enroll at Northern Iowa this fall, and he will be eligible to play immediately for the Panthers next season. Bailey announced last month he was transferring at the end of this semester. The former four-star recruit played sparingly in two years at Illinois. Last season he played in only five games, totaling 238 yards and two touchdowns.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Monday was the first day on the job for Illinois' new co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Mike Phair. Phair was introduced last week after 13 seasons in the NFL. He will share defensive coordinator responsibilities with Tim Banks. Phair was excited to get down to work. He said he hadn't really considered getting back into the college game until Tim Beckman approached him about the job.
CHICAGO, Ill. - Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said Tuesday the decision to move three home football games to Soldier Field in Chicago is a 'win-win' for the program and it's fans. Thomas held a news conference in Chicago Tuesday, where he talked about playing three games over the next five years at Soldier Field against Northwestern. He said the move makes sense financially, it adds excitement to the rivalry with the Wildcats, and it could help in recruiting as well. "Not only for our current kids knowing that while they're here in that 4-5 year window they're going to play two or three games here, it's significant, but it's also something you can sell because a lot of kids don't have the opportunity to play in an NFL venue," Thomas said. "And not only an NFL venue, a historic NFL venue like Soldier Field."
CHICAGO - Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas has said from the beginning he wants to make a commitment to being a part of the city of Chicago. Monday the athletic department and football program took another step toward making that a reality. Illinois announced it will move three of the next five football games against Northwestern to Soldier Field in Chicago. Those games will take place this fall, and then again in 2017 and 2019. All three were scheduled to be home games for Illinois, but instead they have decided to move those home games to the home of the Chicago Bears.
Illinois quarterback Aaron Bailey talks with WCIA 3's Bret Beherns about his decision to transfer, and he has a message for Illini fans.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois quarterback Aaron Bailey has been granted his release from the school and will look to transfer, he confirmed to WCIA 3. "I want to be happy. That's the bottom line," Bailey said. "I just want to play football, play quarterback, and just want to get that opportunity to play again like I did before in high school. It's a great thing. At first it seems like a bad thing, but it's a great thing because I get a second chance so to speak to display my talents." The Bolingbrook-native just finished his sophomore season at Illinois, struggling to find consistent playing time during each of his first two seasons in Champaign. Bailey was one of the top dual-threat quarterback recruits in the country in high school, but he never really seemed to fit into offensive coordinator Bill Cubit's system. Bailey, who was an all-state quarterback, was unwilling to consider switching positions. "Hearing coach Cubit talk, Aaron didn't fit his system," said Bailey's father O Carter. "He felt he would never get the chance to display what he has [at Illinois]."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy has been suspended one game by the NCAA for providing extra benefits to a student-athlete. An Illinois spokesman says the incident stems from Bellamy personally arranging for a junior college athlete to take a placement exam - in lieu of credit hours - in order to finish his associates degree. The NCAA interpreted Bellamy's involvement as an "extra benefit." The university self-reported the violation, and Bellamy will miss next year's season opener against Kent State.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman had a pretty solid recruiting class lined up ahead of National Signing Day, but as the decisions were made and the letters kept coming in Wednesday morning, the class kept getting better. It was a class ranked as low as tenth in the Big Ten on Tuesday, but by Wednesday afternoon it had risen all the way up to No. 6 in the Big Ten and top 50 in the country according to a number of scouting services. "Our coaching staff took the exact same frame of mind when we hit this last month knowing we had some important positions to fill, and that's exactly what they did," Beckman said. "They got after it as if it was the football season, and they did exactly what they did to finish off a pretty good class."
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman addresses the media on National Signing Day
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Tim Beckman thought he had his new co-defensive coordinator, but Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski announced Monday afternoon he is staying with the Tigers. Illinois reportedly offered Kuligowski the job of co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. He is one of the most well-respected defensive coaches in the country after spending more than a decade on the Missouri staff. Kuligowski released a statement Monday saying he considered the opportunity before ultimately deciding it was best to stay put. Illinois is still searching for a new defensive line coach and possible co-coordinator after firing Greg Colby earlier this month.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks may not be the only guy in charge of the defense next season. It appears head coach Tim Beckman is willing to go with co-defensive coordinators as he fills out his staff. The Illini are searching for a new defensive assistant coach to replace Greg Colby, who was let go from his position as defensive line coach. According to the job posting, that person could be given the co-defensive coordinator title if qualified. Banks has been Illinois' sole defensive coordinator for three years. That unit has been among the worst in the league all three years.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois football commit Matt Domer announced Monday he will play at Bowling Green instead of the U of I. Domer signed with Illinois last February, but he was denied admission into the school. He took classes last semester at Parkland in hopes of joining Illinois this semester, but Domer announced on Twitter he is headed to Bowling Green instead. Domer was a standout running back at Chicago's Mt. Carmel High School.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois announced Thursday that defensive line coach Greg Colby and special teams coordinator Tim Salem won't be retained next season. Colby is a Danville native who spent the last two years on Tim Beckman's staff. Salem cam to Illinois with Beckman in 2012. He coach the running backs and special teams for two years before coaching only special teams last season. "This is the toughest thing you have to do as a head coach," Beckman said. "Both Tim and Greg are very good coaches, but I felt we needed to make these changes to help our football program move forward. I want to thank Tim and Greg, along with their outstanding families, for all they did during their time as part of the Fighting Illini football family. I wish both of them the best of luck in their next career step. We'll move forward with replacing them on the staff as soon as possible."
Several newcomers played key roles for the Illinois football team this fall. No one stepped up bigger than freshman receiver Mikey Dudek, who broke several school records. That has third year head coach Tim Beckman optimistic for next season.
Even with a 35-18 loss to Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Bowl Friday, third-year head coach Tim Beckman is staying positive about the future of his program.
DALLAS -- Illinois senior quarterback Reilly O'Toole threw for 295 yards and one touchdown in his final collegiate game but it wasn't enough to hold off Louisiana Tech in a 35-18 loss to the Bulldogs in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl Friday afternoon.
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman made a mid-season change to his practice philosophy and it ended up paying off for the Illini. During the bye week before the Minnesota game, Beckman decided to give his players two extra days off.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It probably comes as no surprise to those who have watched the last couple Illinois football games, but Reilly O'Toole will start for Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said today O'Toole has earned that opportunity. Cubit added that Wes Lunt will have to be ready because there's a good chance he will play in the game. It is only fitting, though, that O'Toole gets this opportunity - given all that he has been through as a career backup - to start his final college game. "It'll just be another opportunity to showcase ourselves as a team," O'Toole said. "I'm just glad to have the opportunity to go out there and try to help the team as best as I can."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois announced Wednesday the addition of eight football players who will join the team next season. These eight will enroll early - in January - to get a jumpstart on their Illinois careers. Those players include six junior college transfers and two high school seniors - including Centennial's Jimmy Fitzgerald. The quarterback was a three-star recruit, who chose Illinois over schools like Harvard and Yale. Fitzgerald was the leader of the state-ranked Centennial Chargers before his senior season was cut short due to a torn ACL.
For the first time in the Tim Beckman era, the Illinois football team was able to talk about a bowl game at their annual banquet Sunday afternoon. Senior quarterback Reilly O'Toole won the outstanding offensive player award.
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said he wants his team to have fun the next few weeks but he also expects the Illini to put in plenty of work preparing for the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois freshman Mike Dudek earned a national honor Friday. The first year wide receiver was named a first team Freshman All-American by Scout.com. Dudek's 965 receiving yards were second most by any freshman nationally, and he was fourth among all freshmen with six touchdown catches. He put together the best freshman season ever by an Illinois wide receiver.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illini football team continued its bowl preparations Thursday, and that involved head coach Tim Beckman making a trip to Dallas in the morning. Representatives from Illinois and Louisiana Tech met for an introductory news conference at the Cotton Bowl stadium. Then Thursday afternoon they got back on the practice field. It was the first full-team practice in more than a week, and the seniors admit they were a little rusty. "Tired and not as mentally sharp as I was in the past few weeks," Donovonn Young said. "But it was fun to be back out here with my guys, getting ready for this bowl game."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illini football team had its back against the wall, needing two wins in the final two weeks to reach bowl eligibility. They got it done, sweated out the selection process, and are hoping to ride the momentum into Dallas for the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Louisiana Tech December 26. "I think any time you can go out and talk about building this thing as it happened for us, being able to talk about three out of the last five wins," said head coach Tim Beckman. "There's a buzz around, and this football team has definitely made the strides to get itself better."
The Illinois football team will play Louisiana Tech in the Zaxsby's Heart of Dallas Bowl December 26th at 12:00.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It may not be a foregone conclusion that Illinois is guaranteed to be in a bowl game. There is a scenario out there in which the Big Ten could have too many bowl eligible teams - and not enough bowls for them all. Basically it all comes down to how many Big Ten teams are selected for the New Year's bowls. If three teams go, that would leave more Big Ten-affiliated bowls for Illinois. If only two conference teams are selected, that could leave one bowl-eligible Big Ten team in the cold.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois wide receiver Mike Dudek has been easily the team's most valuable offensive weapon this season, and Monday night the freshman was one of two Illinois players to earn all-conference recognition. Dudek was named second team all-conference. He was third best in the Big Ten in both touchdowns and receiving yards. He put together the best freshman season ever for an Illini wide receiver. His 69 receptions and 965 receiving yards put him among the top ten in school history in those categories. Punter Justin DuVernois was also named second team all-conference. He was second best in the league at nearly 45 yards per punt.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illini football team is a headed to a bowl game for the first time in 3 years. Illinois clinched bowl eligibility with Saturday's 47-33 win at Northwestern. Tim Beckman will be back next season after the Illini won three of their last five games. At 6-and-6, the Illini have improved record-wise each of the last two years under Beckman. And three Big Ten wins seem to be light years ahead of that 0-and-8 conference mark in Beckman's first season two years ago. "I asked these seniors two years ago that we at that time sophomores to step it up and to build this team for the future," Beckman said after Saturday's win. "Now we're back. We've got six wins underneath our belt. I don't think anybody in [the media] thought we'd win six."
Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas announced Tim Beckman will return as head coach of the Illini football team for the 2015 season. The Illini finished 6-6 this year and are bowl eligible in his third season. Illinois won two games his first season and four in his second. Thomas issued this statement: "It was important to see improvement in our football program this season. Over the last month, we have won three of our last five games, including a pair of Big Ten wins over teams (Minnesota & Penn State) who are headed to the postseason. Our student-athletes have played their best football of the season down the stretch of a tough schedule that included nine bowl-eligible opponents. It’s my expectation that with the upcoming bowl and another off-season of development, that Tim’s continued leadership will keep Fighting Illini Football moving forward and even more competitive in the conference and nationally.”
Illinois forced five turnovers, scored a season high 47 points and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 with a 47-33 win over Northwestern at Ryan Field Saturday afternoon.
The Illinois football team faces a must-win game at Northwestern Saturday. Both teams need to win to become bowl eligible.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Saturday's game at Northwestern is a must-win for the Illinois football team - and their opponent is in a similar situation. Both the Illini and Wildcats come into Saturday's regular season finale with identical 5-6 records. Tim Beckman has tried to emphasize the rivalry with Northwestern during his three years at Illinois, and rarely is so much on the line when these two square off. "This is it," said Beckman. "I mean this is almost like the playoffs. You gotta win to keep playing, and so do they. That's what it's about. It's a great rivalry, and it's one very well respected."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman said Monday he has not decided which quarterback will start this week's must-win game at Northwestern. Wes Lunt started Saturday against Penn State, but after struggling through the first quarter he was sent to the bench in favor of Reilly O'Toole. O'Toole completed 18-of-25 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown, leading Illinois to a 16-14 victory. Lunt was still listed No. 1 on the depth chart Monday, but Beckman says it will be a competition this week in practice. He says he could use two or even three quarterbacks against Northwestern.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - David Reisner said he had a dream Friday night that he would attempt four field goals against Penn State, but not even in his wildest dreams could he have imagined a moment like this - kicking the game-winning field goal with :08 left to lift Illinois to a 16-14 victory over the Nittany Lions. "I went out there," Reisner said. "Coach Cubit lightened the mood up a little bit. He was making some jokes, and I felt calm. Calmer than I have ever been on a field goal. It was nice that everybody believed in me, and I ended up making the kick."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - When Reilly O'Toole is honored before his final game at Memorial Stadium Saturday, it will be bittersweet. "It hasn't hit me," O'Toole said. "I'm sure it will in the next couple of days. Just leaving these guys and all the memories we've made and the good times we've had, it will be emotional for sure."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman and company are still searching for answers on the defensive side of the ball after Saturday's 30-14 loss to Iowa. So far this season Illinois has given up more points than any other Big Ten team. Eight of their ten opponents have scored at least 30 points against the Illinois defense, and Beckman says it just comes down to making plays when they've got the chance. "It's just getting beat," Beckman said of the reason for their struggles. "We were there for all those passes. You gotta make a play. If you watch that film, we're there. We've gotta create more pressure on the quarterback. We ask a lot of our [defensive backs]."
Pressure continues to mount on Tim Beckman in his third season in Champaign. The Illini are 4-6 (1-5) this year with two regular season games left. Beckman talked about the pressure at his news conference Monday.
Illinois football lost to Iowa 30-14 Saturday. The Hawkeyes outgained the Illini 587-235 in total yards. Illinois drops to 4-6 (1-5) with two games left (vs Penn State, at Northwestern) this season.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Wes Lunt could be back on the field for Illinois as soon as next Saturday when they host Iowa, but one of his key protectors on the offensive line won't be there. Starting offensive lineman Ted Karras will miss the rest of the season after tearing both his ACL and MCL in last week's loss at Ohio State. Karras was on crutches at the end of Saturday's game in Columbus, and head coach Tim Beckman confirmed the season-ending injury after practice Wednesday. Karras has started all but two games in his three years at Illinois.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Reilly O'Toole will get his third straight start at quarterback when the Illini visit Ohio State this weekend. The senior earned another start by leading Illinois to its first Big Ten home win in more than three years Saturday against Minnesota. "I thought we played really hard, came ready to go," O'Toole said. "We got off to a quick start, but really again we gotta be more consistent, put all four quarters together."
Illinois used a scoop and score from V'Angelo Bentley late in the fourth quarter and a strong defensive effort to upset Minnesota 28-24 Saturday afternoon on Homecoming at Memorial Stadium.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman said this week you will see both quarterbacks, Reilly O'Toole and Aaron Bailey, in the game this Saturday against Minnesota. It has been an up-and-down season for O'Toole, who has completed 55 percent of his passes and thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. He wants to play, but he says he is prepared to share the snaps if that helps the team win.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that both Aaron Bailey and Reilly O'Toole will get a lot of reps in practice this week, but he wouldn't say who will be the starter at quarterback when the Illini take the field in a week-and-a-half against Minnesota. Beckman did say Bailey will be a part of the game plan moving forward now that he isn't redshirting.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - What would've happened if Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had played his college football at Illinois? Well it turns out, that's exactly where he wanted to play. Rodgers told The Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday that Illinois was his first choice of schools, but they never offered. Instead he became an NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion as a product of Cal - instead of the Illini.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Almost nobody outside the Illinois locker room is giving the Illini any chance to win at Wisconsin this weekend. The Illini are 25.5 point underdogs against the Badgers. Talking to head coach Tim Beckman and the team this week, they're using their opportunity to show everybody everybody what they're made of. "I ask our players to play hard, and they're playing hard," Beckman said. "It comes down to me, and we've got make sure that our players are doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing and just keep playing hard because it'll all come if we're playing with enough effort."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – University of Illinois freshman receiver Mike Dudek (Naperville, Illinois/Neuqua Valley HS) was added to the watch list for the 2014 Biletnikoff Award on Tuesday. The Biletnikoff Award is given annually to the nation’s top receiver. Dudek is having a steallar freshman season, currently standing 19th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total receiving yards (539) and second among FBS freshmen.
Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman said 'it's all about the players' at his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. The response came after he questioned whether he feels the need to make a statement to the fans about his team.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Mikey Dudek has made an immediate impact on the Illini football team this season, and now the true freshman is being recognized among the best freshmen nationwide. Dudek has been named to the watch list for the freshman of the year award given by the College Football Performance Awards. He is among the Top 10 in the conference in receiving yards, and he has proven to be one of Wes Lunt's favorite targets especially late in games. Dudek has caught for 339 yards and three touchdowns in his first five career games. "I've had a great time. It's been fun," said Dudek. "Definitely a lot of stress leading up to the games wanting to perform well. Becuase you put in all that work, and you don't want to see that work not pay off for you."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Wes Lunt has declared himself ready to go this weekend vs. Purdue. Head coach Tim Beckman told reporters early Tuesday on a conference call that Lunt has been practicing as if he were 100% healthy; Lunt echoed that Tuesday night, and it looks like Illinois is moving forward with the hope that Lunt will be back under center against the Boilermakers.