Passionate Beckman takes dig at NU, offers Illini local recruiting promise
BY MIKE CLARK Staff Reporter February 5, 2014 10:44PM
Illinois football coach Tim Beckman talks about recruits, from left, wide receiver Geronimo Allison, wide receiver Mike Dudek, quarterback Chayce Crouch, defensive end Joe Fotu and defensive end Paul James during a signing-day reception at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/The News-Gazette, Robin Scholz) MANDATORY CREDIT
Updated: February 6, 2014 12:12AM
One thing you can’t doubt about Tim Beckman is his passion.
It’s obvious when the Illinois football coach is working a banquet crowd, as he did in December at recruiting guru Tom Lemming’s All-Area event at Soldier Field. And it’s earned him positive reviews from Lemming and other analysts.
“What I love about Illinois, they’re one of the more aggressive recruiting staffs in the country,” Lemming said.
A little bit of that edge came out Wednesday at Beckman’s news conference unveiling his second full recruiting class since replacing Ron Zook.
“We signed four football players out of the state of Chicago, as we call it, and that’s more than the actual team that’s in Chicago signed,” Beckman said. “So we’re proud.”
That’s a shot, of course, at “Chicago’s Big Ten team,” as Northwestern likes to market itself.
The Illini signed four local players in an 18-man class that also includes five junior-college transfers: Lincoln-Way East’s Nick Allegretti, who is one of the top centers in the national Class of 2014; Matt Domer, whose slashing runs helped Mount Carmel win two state titles; Neuqua Valley speedster Mikey Dudek; and Lincoln-Way North cornerback Julian Hylton.
That trumps NU’s local haul for quantity, but the Wildcats have the edge in quality with a trio of four-star recruits in a class of 15. The best of them is Glenbard North’s two-way star Justin Jackson, who made a run at the state single-season rushing record and was the consensus Illinois Player of the Year. Then there’s Clayton Thorson, the strong-armed Wheaton North quarterback, and Bolingbrook defensive back Parrker Westphal.
Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt likes them all.
“I sometimes watch Justin Jackson film with a little popcorn,” Helmholdt said. “He’s a high energy back ... he treats people who try to tackle him like they said something mean about his mother.
“The more I watch Clayton Thorson, the more I appreciate his game. ... Physically, he’s one of the most-impressive-looking kids at quarterback in the entire country.
“Westphal has as much talent as any big defensive back in the country.”
It’s a great group and Beckman’s decision to take a swipe at the trio is a little odd — especially considering an improved Illinois team couldn’t win last year against a Northwestern squad riding a seven-game losing streak.
You might think Beckman would have more important things to concern himself with than how many area recruits his No. 1 rival had.
Among them: why his classes haven’t ranked higher nationally and in the Big Ten.
“As hard as coach Beckman and his staff work on the recruiting trail, I’m surprised they haven’t done better,” Helmholdt said.
Lemming hopes Illini Nation hangs with Beckman, whose team made great strides on offense under first-year coordinator Bill Cubit.
“They’ve got to give Tim Beckman some time,” Lemming said. “At least four years. The fans have to have patience.”
If they have as much patience as Beckman has passion, the coach should be in pretty good shape.