Remember me Reset Password

Save Customer ID

New Illinois coach Lovie Smith sells himself to home grown talent

Posted by BetOnline Team on 3/31/2016 10:29:54 AM
Illimois NCAA coach Lovie Smith

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Lovie Smith used to be loved in greater Chicago and Illinois as head coach of the Chicago Bears. He made this team a mean defensive-minded ball club that fit the mood and the needs of Chicago.

He led the Bears to Super Bowl XLI where they lost to the Indianapolis Colts and his mentor Tony Dungy. Smith was fired in 2012 even though he won 10 games his final season. They still love Lovie in Chicago.

Will that love carry over into his new job as head coach of the University of Illinois? In other words, can Smith win the recruiting battle in Illinois, which is ranked in the top 10 in recruiting battlefields in the United States?

They got boys that can play but most do not play for the Illini, which has been one of the most disappointing college football programs in the Big Ten. That’s because they don’t get talent at Illinois. Last season Illinois ranked 12th in the Big Ten in recruiting and 60th overall in the nation. Two seasons ago it ranked 71st overall.

That won’t cut it against the systems in Iowa and Wisconsin on one side of the Big Ten and the flat out talent at Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan on the other. The Buckeyes, Spartans, and Wolverines seem to get too Illinois talent most years.

One problem is Illinois has been an unimaginative program. The other is there are rigorous academic standards which leave some recruits out.

However, Smith can sell the NFL where he coached in Chicago and Tampa and he wants to sell a high tempo and high scoring offense even though Smith is known for his defenses. Smith said his goal is to score on every play. His offensive coordinator Garrick McGee is excited to try.

“He assured us that as long as we keep them under 39, we’re going to win a lot of games,” Smith said.

Athletic Director Josh Whitman hired Smith shortly after taking over the department for Mike Thomas and wanted somebody who was high profile and brought attention to the program.

“Naming Lovie Smith as the Illinois head football coach is the first step in taking this program to a place of national prominence,” Whitman said. “We will build a program that contends annually for Big Ten and national championships.”

Smith took to twitter and is fighting to keep his players at home. That could hurt Michigan State, which has won 11 games - five of the last six years - and played Alabama in the National semifinal game on New Years Eve. MSU signed 10 players out of Illinois in the last three years.

“Guys want to prove exactly who they are,” Smith said. “Hey coach I should be starting. Hey, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten a chance. New eyes don’t have any biases.”

Recruits want to feel like they have a shot at the NFL. Smith can sell himself as an NFL coach and the four assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson who coached with Smith in Tampa and had a solid NFL career at linebacker.

“We have great diversity,” Smith said. “I had a picture in my mind. I wanted a mix and some things from the college game.”

This is a tough sell for Smith. Illinois is 8-32 the past five seasons in the Big Ten and last went to a Rose Bowl in 2007 under Coach Ron Zook.

Can Smith turn this program around? That’s if he can win over the parents in the state of Illinois.


↑ Back to page content
↑ Back to top