The Illinois Fighting Illini did not have a lot go right for them in 2012, finishing just 2-10 on the year. Part of the problem, according to head coach Tim Beckman, was injuries, depth at the offensive skill positions and a lack of senior leadership in key spots. He’s hoping he’ll help address all those things by moving senior Steve Hull from defense to offense in 2013.
Hull, a fifth-year senior, has played three seasons on the defensive side of the ball for Illinois as a safety. He’s been a force in the running game, often coming down in support to deliver jarring blows to ball carriers while also roaming the deep secondary in pass coverage. In three seasons, Hull recorded three interceptions while averaging 3.9 tackles per game.
So why take one of your senior leaders on defense off of the defense? Hull has had trouble staying on the field due to injuries. In three seasons, he’s played in just 24 games, never playing a complete season (he played in 12 of 13 games in 2011). Last season, he was on the field for just four games, though he still recorded 17 tackles and a pair of interceptions.
Beckman though that the best way to protect Hull in his senior season would be to eliminate some of the head-on collisions he was taking as a safety by moving him over to offense as a receiver. So far, so good, according to Beckman, who says Hull has loved it on offense and has quickly emerged as one of the big vocal leaders of the team.
That leadership will come in handy as the Illini try to find some playmakers in a crop of unproven freshmen and junior college transfers who have not shown they can compete in Big Ten yet. Letting Hull settle in as the emotional leader in his final season with Illinois will help the young and untested receiving corps to grow up and make contributions quickly.
It’s still left to see how well Hull makes the transition to actually catching passes during games, however. For that, we will have to wait until next fall, but for now, the roster is getting made over for Tim Beckman’s second season in Champaign. Will it be enough to turn around the Illini’s fortunes in 2013?