After a disastrous 2-10 inaugural season, you would expect the head to be turned up on Tim Beckman with the Illinois Fighting Illini in year two. But the way that Beckman went 2-10 with off-field missteps and the product on the field deteriorating, the pressure is cranked up to an all-new level. Can Beckman find a way to turn things around at Illinois?
It will be an uphill challenge. While he gets nine starters back on offense, that was an offense that scored the fewest points in program history since going to a 12-game schedule. The two starters they lose were the team’s top two offensive linemen from a year ago, meaning the pressure will get turned up on quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase in 2013.
Things aren’t looking much more promising on defense. Only four starters return for Illinois and five of their projected starters in 2013 participated in their first spring practice this year. They lose the majority of their defensive contributors and will have to rely on young, unproven commodities to try and improve on a defense that struggled to make stops last season.
Beckman will need to find a way to get it done, however, and he won’t have a lot of leeway from fans to get there. Last year was a series of embarrassments off the field as well as on it, starting with Beckman’s decision to swoop in on the Penn State Nittany Lions just hours after the NCAA levied sanctions against the program and announced every player on their roster was free to transfer.
It was a move that made Illinois look opportunistic and petty and in the end only netted them a single offensive linemen who won’t likely crack the Illinois two-deep depth chart even though the Illini are desperate for help along the line. It turned out to be that kind of season for Beckman and Illinois as everything that could go wrong seemed to.
And Beckman doesn’t have the “wow” factor in his coaching resume to earn any second chances. Previous Illinois head coaches who struggled in their first two seasons, like Ron Turner (3-19 in first two years) and Ron Zook (4-19). Turner brought NFL experience with him and Zook had a reputation as a top-notch recruiter which provided some hope for their future success even if they didn’t have much in the present.
Beckman doesn’t have that. And if he doesn’t find a way to win games in 2013, he’ll likely be out of a job for it.