Fightless Illini Exchange



By Paul M. Banks and Paul Schmidt

(PMB) Wow! Can’t say any of us saw this trainwreck coming down the railroad. The University of Illinois have been anything but Fighting this year, as they’ve lost both of their meetings with FBS schools by a combined score of 67-9. They did achieve one victory, but that was over a FCS team. But have no fear, Paul squared (myself and Paul Schmidt) are here to guide you through this potentially disastrous season.

So where is the allegedly vaunted offense hiding? WR Arrelious Benn was a favorite in August to win the Biletnikoff award. He has a whopping 44 yards receiving on the season. I’m beginning to think he’ll actually be a poor pro prospect now, as he can never stay on the field, and be 100%. He had been a consensus top ten pick in mock drafts all across the www, but now you have to question his ability to stay and remain healthy. Because last season was his only year of true full production. Although I have to applaud him for putting up the numbers he did, while having a separated shoulder the whole time.

(PS)  Regardless of the validity of your statements — and there certainly is some truth there — I honestly believe that Benn is one of the toughest cats playing college football today (channeling my inner Jim Rome there). He’s an absolute physical specimen, and with his unbelievable combination of strength and speed and size, he has the potential to be a Charles Johnson-type receiver — just an unbelievably tough matchup.

Is he an injury risk?  Sure.  But if he slips in the first round because of that, not only would that be a horrible, horrible mistake, it’s going to make one of the better teams in the league (i.e., a team drafting at the end of the first round) a whole lot better. As for his lack of production, I predict you’re going to ask a question about the real reason in 3…..2…..1…..

(PMB) His partner in disappointment Juice Williams was on every QB award watch list you can mention. Through three games, he has 0 TDs, 3 INTs and a passer rating that would make Rex Grossman vomit. What on Earth is wrong with him so far? There’s a conspiracy theory floating around that now departed Offensive Coordinator Mike Locksley altered the offense last year from an option-read attack to a more pro style, utilizing a greater number of NFL style pass patterns. Locksley intentionally went away from what worked in ’07 in order to improve his stock in the coaching job market. And Juice followed along, in order to help his pro stock. True or not, who knows? Now what do we have? Other than a hot mess overall on offense.


(PS) I was as big a fan of Locksley as anyone, especially his unbelievable recruiting skills.  He got passed over for some decent jobs and jumped at a New Mexico job that…well, that decision was odd, to say the least.  Now he’s punching wide receiver coaches.  All I mean by that is that maybe Locks wasn’t the answer here either.

Juice….JuiceJuiceJuice.  Ever the enigma.  When we brought him in as a highly-touted recruit I thought he would be the one to lead us to the promised land. Now?  More than anything, it seems like so long ago.  I don’t know what’s wrong with Juice, because I’m starting to wonder if anything is.  Maybe this is just who he is.  I feel bad for him because he really is a great guy, but I just don’t think he has it in him anymore.  It hurts me to say it, but I think it’s true.

What are your thoughts on the demise of Juice?


(PMB) I agree that Juice is the main reason for Benn’s decline. As for Mr. Williams, he looks lost/apathetic/back to early 2006 form. Is he resting on his laurels? Not in the game mentally/physically/emotionally/psychologically? The Zooker best find out quick. At Illini Media Day Zook talked about how he was in Puerto Rico and the cab driver saw his Illini gear and immediately brought up Juice, like he’s some kind of international superstar. Well, he’s quickly becoming a has been.

I know Zook signed a contract extension earlier this year, but with this assemblage of “talent,” and right now I use airquotes because of the awful performances we’ve endured, when does the seat start warming for Zook? Last year was a huge let-down, so how much time has the Rose Bowl in 2007, which in all honestly, is the only thing he’s accomplished so far, actually bought him?

(PS) I said when they signed Zook, the difference between Florida and Illinois is…back to back 8-5 seasons gets you fired in Gainesville, but it would get a statue erected to him in Champaign. I still maintain I’m right about that, but he’s shown no propensity to actually achieve it.  I thought talent could overcome his obvious coaching deficiencies, but that hasn’t even been the problem this season. He’s said after both losses that the team just wasn’t ready.  How??  Could that EVEN be possible?  And whose fault is that?  To me, it was inexcusable to hear it the first time, so when it was said a second time this year I was furious.  There’s no excuse for lack of preparation, there’s no excuse for lack of heart, there’s no excuse to be as badly coached as that team was on Saturday.   If his seat isn’t getting VERY warm at this point, then it never will.

(PMB) Now with Penn State coming to town, this season could get ugly quickly, like Lou Tepper or Ron Turner era ugly. PSU holds a 13-3 series advantage, including a 6-3 edge over the Illini in Champaign. We’ll be sitting in the press box together on Saturday (for the “Orange Out” game), and I have a feeling we’ll sound like a younger version of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets. They spend most of the time pointing out  how terrible what they’re watching is. “Well, I certainly enjoyed that last series?” “why?” “Because it was the LAST series.” statler_waldorf

(PS) I fear that this is going to be the turning point of the season, which is unfortunate given that a REALLY pissed off Penn State team is coming to Champaign.  I don’t want to relive last season’s Minnesota debacle…I really will have to start poking one of my eyes out with a fork. Can Illinois win on Saturday?  Of course they can.  They’re definitely talented enough.  I just don’t know if they care enough to show up at this point. The first sentence of Pat Forde’s “Forde-Yard Dash” sums up the season so far: “From High Octane to Low Comedy: The Illinois Offense Story” Not much you can add to that.

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  1. They better bring it Sat…considering that between the hours will spend driving there and back. 13 of our waking hours will be dedicated to them, so it should not be rewarded with a 45-3 drubbing

  2. PS – please, whatever you do, don’t take the fork to your eye. You’ve had enough eye issues lately. And it would make driving back significantly more challenging.

  3. Paul Schmidt says

    I didn’t take a fork to my eye…but I’ve beaten my head on the table a lot today. This is a travesty.

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