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After woeful 1st season, it doesn’t look easier for Illini football coach Tim Beckman

Illinois v Michigan

Illinois v Michigan

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Updated: May 13, 2013 6:47AM



Every football coaching job comes with its challenges. Tim Beckman’s old boss, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, needs to win at the highest level. Early and
often.

As Beckman heads into his second season after a disastrous first year, he has to convince people he can win. Ever.

He’ll have a chance to move those chains ever so slightly at Illinois’ spring game on Friday night (8 p.m., BTN).

‘‘Last year was nothing anybody wanted,’’ Beckman said of a 2-10 campaign pockmarked by public-relations gaffes. ‘‘But we have to move forward. We can’t dwell on the past.’’

Showing progress won’t be easy.

Nine starters return on offense, but that offense managed only 12 rushing touchdowns while scoring 16.7 points a game. Its 200 points are the lowest total at Illinois since college football adopted a 12-game schedule in 2006.

And the two lost starters were Illinois’ two best offensive linemen. It adds up to another frantic season for senior Nathan Scheelhaase, a four-year starter who was fine when people were getting things done around him.

The situation might be even more dire on defense, where four starters return. Even though many of the departed starters will be competing for NFL jobs, the defense also struggled last year. With youngsters replacing them, Illinois will need to buckle up.

‘‘Five defensive first-teamers are in their first spring,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘Last year, they were getting ready for baseball season and prom. They’re extremely young, But they’ve worked extremely hard. You can see them getting better each and every day.’’

They’ll need to make immense strides if Illinois is going to weather another ominous schedule. Oddsmakers probably would see Illinois as the underdog in 10 of its 12 games.

Whether Beckman can survive another 2-10 season is an open question.

His potential upside was called into serious question during his inaugural campaign, when people thought Illinois had a chance to approach a 6-6 mark if everything broke right.

Instead, everything broke, period. Illinois was buried off the field as well as on it. It was a season that began with Beckman defending the decision to swoop down on Penn State players. That clumsy maneuver netted only one player, an offensive lineman who may not make an Illinois two-deep that’s desperate for help.

It was also a season that ended with Beckman being knocked off his feet twice at Northwestern by referees, who also whistled him for sideline interference. Talk about a metaphor.

When his two predecessors, Ron Turner (3-19 in his first two years) and Ron Zook (4-19), put up some wrong-way numbers upon arriving in Champaign, it was understood that the cupboard was bare. In addition, Turner had an NFL cachet, and Zook a recruiting reputation, that inspired hope.

Beckman doesn’t have those kinds of cushions.

In another curious twist, Illinois is playing its spring game at night to accommodate the Big Ten Network.

‘‘BTN kind of kicked it back,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘We were going to start earlier, but we wanted it on TV. It was something we wanted to give a try. We hope to have a great turnout.’’

With an unseasonably-cold forecast that calls for temperatures in the low 40s (and 15 m.p.h. winds dropping the wind chill into the low 30s), good luck with that.



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