Mark Tupper's blog

Lunt gives Beckman an early Illini win

2013-06-18T13:25:00Z Lunt gives Beckman an early Illini winMark Tupper
June 18, 2013 1:25 pm  • 

CHAMPAIGN – It would be fun to be anticipate the upcoming Illini football season as a prelude to a major bowl game.

They do that in places like Columbus, Ohio, Madison, Wis., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

But I can’t do that.

However, it is with some relief to be able to talk about an Illini football victory coach Tim Beckman posted this week 68 days before the Aug. 31 season opener against Southern Illinois University.

And let’s face it, there haven’t been many victories to discuss.

Wes Lunt’s decision to transfer to Illinois from Oklahoma State is a triumph on more than one front.

Yes, he’s a very good player who will join the team this summer and be eligible to play for three seasons beginning in 2014.

Yes, he’s a quarterback, and as football fans we’re obligated to hyperventilate at anything and everything to do with the quarterback.

Yes, he’s an in-state kid (Rochester) who is making a decision to opt for the home-state school, even though more successful programs (Louisville) were extending their hand. Illinois needs to upgrade it’s in-state recruiting success so this counts as a one-player upgrade.

And, yes, his presence on the roster could impact the way other recruiting targets feel about Illinois. A wide receiver who was on the fence about the Illini will have to re-evaluate opportunities knowing that Lunt will either be his quarterback or be beaten out by someone who is surprisingly better.

And, finally, by all accounts, Beckman and his staff did a good job on this one. They jumped on Lunt early, they showed him the proper amount of love and they knew what sales pitch might work to bring him aboard.

That’s where Beckman gets steak on his plate rather than his lengthy run of beans and weenies.

Since last season’s abysmal 2-10 season ended, Beckman has made what we believe to be some positive changes on his coaching staff. None appears to be more significant than the hiring of Bill Cubit, the former Western Michigan head coach, as Illinois’ new offensive coordinator.

Everyone in the room was impressed the day Cubit was introduced. He’s an experienced offensive coach with a proven system and a track record of effective play-calling, something Beckman’s previous co-offensive coordinator did not have.

Cubit’s main problem as Western Michigan’s head coach was on the defensive side of the ball, something he no longer has to trouble himself with.

Cubit quickly won over senior-to-be quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and as we watched him at practice during spring ball, it was clear players respected him and enjoyed interacting with him.

Lunt said he connected with Beckman, and that’s good. But it is Cubit’s offense that made him believe he can flourish at Memorial Stadium. Calling it “pass happy,” Lunt likes the way Cubit’s attack puts the quarterback in position to shine. Sorry, but there’s no way Lunt picks Illinois without the change at offensive coordinator, a change Beckman gets credit for orchestrating..

Next season, Illinois will have four quarterbacks in the mix. Reilly O’Toole will be a senior. Aaron Bailey arrives this fall as a highly touted freshman from Bolingbrook. And Beckman has already received a 2014 commitment from Chayce Crouch of Newark, Ohio.

That’s not quite a traffic jam, but it would be if a strong-armed prospect out of Indianapolis accepts Beckman’s recent scholarship offer.

Jeff George – yep, the son of the former Illini quarterback star with the same name – recently participated in Illinois’ 7-on-7 camp and Beckman used the occasion to extend the offer.

I have not seen the younger Jeff George play. He’s at Warren Central High School, the same high school his dad attended.

Jeff Sr., you might recall, went to Purdue for a year, then left when the Boilermakers fired coach Leon Burtnett. He was headed to Miami but backed out of that deal and landed at Illinois, where for two seasons under John Mackovic he led Illinois to 16 wins, two bowl games and became the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

He had an unbelievable arm and they still talk about George’s workout for pro teams in Champaign, when he gunned it 80 yards and caused scouts to drool with their mouths open. Not only was his arm prolifically strong, he had one of the quickest releases anyone has ever seen.

His NFL career never matched that potential. He was on rosters for 17 years (late in his career as an insurance policy that never saw action), played for six different teams and threw for 27,000 yards and 154 touchdowns.

No way Jeff Jr. has dad’s arm, but maybe he’s still blooming. That said, adding another quarterback would be a luxury Beckman perhaps can’t afford given the many other needs up and down his roster.

For now, the arrival of another Jeff George is just provocative speculation.

Wes Lunt is actually on his way, and for the first time in a while it feels like there’s a ray of sun shining on the Illini football program.

It may not be enough to chase away all the clouds, but no one should blame Beckman for celebrating this one.

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(9) Comments

  1. frankie21EDB
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    frankie21EDB - June 21, 2013 11:07 am
    Let's make sure he actually shows up on campus first.
  2. Red in a blue state
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    Red in a blue state - June 20, 2013 9:43 am
    Also T Tom, Lunt is from Rochester Il. Them and Chattam Glenwood have been churning out some real D-1 talent of late. We have got to get in on that talent pool so close to home. The Lunt get sure can't hurt.
  3. Red in a blue state
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    Red in a blue state - June 20, 2013 9:32 am
    T Tom, Lunt is 6'4", 210/220 or so. A pure pocket passer with good mobility. Started for Oklahoma St. as a pure freshman. Something we have not seen in the O & B for many years. I hope I can go as far to say this eras Jeff George.( Could end up having a lot in common). But you are right, without adequate blocking and receivers who can shed a defender and make the tough catches it won't matter. But Cubit from what I understand is the right OC for this opportunity.
    If you want to build a program and change perceptions that effects recruiting as well as fan support I can't imagine a better place to start than at the QB position and especially with a talent like this. I;m always looking for a ray of hope when it comes to Illinois football and I want to believe this is a big one. We'll see.
  4. Mikeydamouth
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    Mikeydamouth - June 19, 2013 3:42 pm
    Irt hoops season......Not soon enough.
  5. Tendonitis Tom
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    Tendonitis Tom - June 19, 2013 10:39 am
    Our top incoming recruit is a QB (Bailey), so in 2 years we'll have two highly regarded QBs competing for the starting job over three years. Maybe we've got that position solidified now, but do/will we have anyone who can block for them, or catch their passes? Get me highly-regarded O linemen two deep at each position and maybe I'll start getting excited again.

    Looking at the schedule, I find it hard to get to 4 wins, and with a little bit of bad luck we could easily be at the 2 - 10 that Pa Chief mentions. What are the odds that Lunt will ever take a snap with Beckman as head coach? I strongly suspect Illinois FB remains lost in the wilderness with TB at the helm, but I lived through the Gary Moeller era, so I'm immune to the misery.

    I don't follow FB much and had never heard of Lunt. What type of QB is he? How tall is he?He's saying Cubit will be pass-happy, so is Lunt more of a dropback guy? I hope so, cuz I dislike the QBs running so much out of the spread or whatever it's called. I still wonder what Juice could have developed into under the 4-year tutelage of someone who didn't run him into 2 or 3 lineman/linebackers two out of every three plays. I'm not sure I can bear another season of NS's passing, so when does hoop season begin?
  6. Red in a blue state
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    Red in a blue state - June 19, 2013 10:09 am
    Well crk maybe this is one of those lucky breaks of timing a struggling program needs to turn the corner. I know many don't believe Beckman is that guy to make the turn but I believe only 1 season is too soon to judge. Coaches keep their jobs by winning not a few recruiting victories but seeing real improvment on the field this season will help. The Cubit hire, the Lunt get even though he has to set out are two major steps in the right direction. Since Bailey appears to be a run first pass second type QB who might need time possibly seasons to develope, having a pure passer like Lunt coming in and a coach, Cubit, whose system has an emphasis on passing sounds Mike White esq. and I can't wait!! I'ts a ray of sunshine for us loyal fans too!
  7. BGoat
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    BGoat - June 19, 2013 6:58 am
    First true freshman to win the starting job at OSU upon Weeden's graduation and he was doing great until the injury. Gundy and Monkin did a fine job as OSU had three quality starters on the roster. Yes, Beckman worked for Gundy, but he was encouraged to move on and OSU became much better upon Beckman's departure. I hope Wes doesn't suffer the same fate Nathan has (N.S. passed on Sooners for Zook's Illini and Sooners ended up going with Landry Jones upon the rebuff),
  8. PA Chief
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    PA Chief - June 18, 2013 7:45 pm
    Let’s curb our enthusiasm and take a reality check here. As far as Beckman doing a great job landing Lunt, let’s not forget that OK State precluded Lunt from transferring to a dozen or so schools. Perhaps Illinois was just the best of what was left. Lunt’s presence on the roster is not going to have any impact on future recruits if Beckman produces another 2-10 disaster of a season, which is entirely possible. I’m not saying Beckman does not deserve credit for landing Lunt, but how pathetic is it when landing a transfer QB is his only positive accomplishment in an entire year. Hiring Cubit might turn out to be a great hire, but let’s not forget that Beckman was the genius who hired Cubit’s predecessor. A hire that was so bad it had to be terminated after one season. Let’s also not forget how many of Beckman’s assistant coaches left Illinois for lateral positions elsewhere after just one year. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Beckman. This singular positive in a year of abysmal failures will not change the majority opinion that Beckman is not up to the job.
  9. crkcrk2
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    crkcrk2 - June 18, 2013 4:57 pm
    Definitely a ray of sunshine for Coach Beckman.

    With a little help from the OS athletic director who prohibited Lunt from transferring to the Big 12, Pac 12, or SEC.

    Hope springs eternal crk
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