Brandon Lloyd Gives Blunt Take on Recent Illini Coaches (EXCLUSIVE)

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Brandon Lloyd provided high praise of Illinois Fighting Illini Coach Bret Bielema, describing who he is and what he can do. During our exclusive conversation, Lloyd said Bielema is the first Illini football coach to bring these attributes to the table since Ron Turner, who was his coach at Illinois.

Which implicitly says that, well, Ron Zook, Tim Beckman, Bill Cubit and Lovie Smith simply didn’t have these attributes. We caught up to Brandon Lloyd at halftime of the Illini season opening win over Nebraska. The second leading receiver in Illinois football history was on hand as part of the 20th anniversary reunion and celebration of the 2001 Big Ten title team.

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“For one, he’s got to get these guys to listen to him,” Lloyd responded when we asked him what Bielema needs to do get the program finally turned around.

“Because this is the first coach who’s actually had an aggressive mentality since Ron Turner- actually has an aggressive mentality about recruiting and keeping guys in state; an attitude about how the team is going to perform on the field- I haven’t heard a coach talk that aggressively about how the players’ mentality should be.

“So if the players listen to that, and they play with that mentality, they should be successful.”

Basically, Lloyd is implying that Zook, Beckman, Cubit and Smith just didn’t have the same zeal for the job, and most specifically the recruiting aspect of it that Bielema does. And the evidence, via the win-loss records over that period of time, certainly proves his point.

Zook probably should have been fired after the 2009 season, but instead the school brought in two hot shot (at least at the time) coordinators who took on a larger than usual role.

This then diminished Zook’s role and he kind of mentally checked out, and the rankings for his recruiting classes dropped severely for the next two campaigns in which he was in charge.

His successor, Beckman, was a disaster hire made by an Athletic Director in Mike Thomas who was a train wreck when it came to hiring head coaches in the revenue sports. Beckman was just in way over his head in all aspects of the job, including recruiting.

Cubit was just an interim guy, put in place to try and put a band-aid on the situation. Lovie was a big swing, but also a big miss and there were questions about his true desire for the job from the get go. The number one knock on the decision to hire him was simply-

“Will he actually get out there and recruit?” Well, although his regime made some nice pick-ups in the transfer market, you saw how that worked out.

Despite the disastrous home loss to mid-major program UTSA last night, there is still hope that Bielema can get this thing turned around. We shouldn’t read too much into the results of just two games anyway.

Lloyd, despite forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft, finished his Illini career having the second-most receiving yards (2,835) and touchdown catches (31) in Illinois history, and ranking third in all-time receptions (160).

He discussed what the key to Bielema righting the ship will be.

“The other component is the recruiting, if he can actually execute on the recruiting strategy that he’s talking about,” the former NFL Pro Bowler said.

“Because he has a good blue print that he had at Wisconsin, getting those big 350s up front (Offensive linemen), the athletic quarterback, the athletic tailback- those are the components to success in the modern offenses that are being played in the NCAA.

“So if he can execute that recruiting plan, and he players listen to him, they’ll have success

Brandon Lloyd finished his U of I degree and walked with the graduation class of 2018. He played for seven teams during his NFL career, and led the entire league in receiving yards in 2010.

The Blue Springs, Missouri native is currently working towards earning a MBA at the University of Denver, and serving with a non-profit organization called Careerwise Colorado.

Lloyd said they “specialize in getting high school students into white collar apprenticeships in Denver, Colorado.”

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The excitement of the opening day win brought a renewed sense of hope in the fan base. Finally, there is a leader in place who meets a certain standard of competency and acumen that has been lacking for quite some time.

Obviously, last night has changed the feeling considerably.

However, it can be argued that Bielema is the first true head college football coach that Illinois has had since John Mackovic.

Lou Tepper was basically not much more than a D Coordinator, Turner an OC, Zook a recruiting specialist, Beckman a train wreck, Cubit an interim, Lovie an experiment.

Bielema has actually done this before and he done it right, so we got to give him time.

2001 Big Ten Champions 20 Year Reunion Exclusives

Kurt Kittner      Rocky Harvey     Brandon Lloyd

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune.

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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