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Tim Banks has ‘grown as a coach’ during Illini’s trying times

Ohio State quarterback BraxtMiller (5) runs against Illinois during first half an NCAA college football game Saturday Nov. 16 2013

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller (5) runs against Illinois during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

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Updated: November 21, 2013 12:26AM

A younger Tim Banks would have laid into his defensive players long before now. The second-year Illinois defensive coordinator would have ranted and raved about their poor tackling and shoddy technique, their inability to pressure passers or create turnovers.

“The first thing would’ve been to lash out,” Banks said Wednesday.

“But I think I’ve grown as a coach, to be honest with you. When you’re having the season we’re having, your true character comes out. I’ve learned how to manage myself, and the ups and downs. It’s so much about morale and how you treat your kids.”

Banks is 41, an experienced coach who guided terrific defenses on successful teams as a coordinator at Cincinnati and Central Michigan. But by the time his 42nd birthday rolls around in less than four weeks, will he still have a job? Some believe it’s a foregone conclusion Banks will be fired regardless of the status of coach Tim Beckman.

The defense has been the most-glaring weakness of a team that carries the massive burden of a 20-game losing streak in the Big Ten. Nationally, the Illini rank 114th (out of 123 teams) in total defense and 108th in scoring defense.

“To say it doesn’t have an effect on me would be disingenuous,” Banks said. “It’s difficult.”

Banks credited his wife, Robin, as well as his faith with helping to carry him through some of the bleakest Saturdays of his career. But he also has bonded with his extremely young defense. It’s a group he believes will take a big step forward in 2014, as coordinator Bill Cubit’s offense has in 2013.

Media and fans have torn into a defense that has given up 41.5 points per game against six conference opponents. Ohio State and ­Indiana broke so many long touchdown runs on the ­Illini the last two weeks, it was reasonable to wonder if the confidence and concentration of Banks’ younger starters was shot.

Not Banks, who has tightened up more than one struggling defense before. These are his guys, and he’s convinced they still need him.

“I’m extremely confident in my ability,” he said. “I know I can coach this game.”


Twitter: @slgreenberg

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