CHAMPAIGN – Bill Cubit had 500,009 reasons to smile Wednesday.
The University of Illinois offensive coordinator received a raise to $500,000 a year and a contract extension through 2015, and he and head coach Tim Beckman announced that nine new players would be enrolling in January.
The new players include four junior college prospects and five who are graduating early from their high schools. For Cubit, the group includes three wide receivers, a quarterback, a tight end and a lineman.
Cubit said he was approached by a number of schools following the 2013 season, his first after arriving at Illinois following an eight-year stay as head coach at Western Michigan.
“I believe in these kids and what we’re doing and I just wanted to be a part of it,” the 60-year-old Cubit said. “(AD Mike Thomas) was good to me and Beck was really good to me. I’m a loyalty guy.
“I’ve been dating the same girl since my sophomore year in high school. That’s just what I do. I’m really happy being here.”
Cubit took over an offense that averaged 296.7 yards per game in 2012 and produced 426.7 yards per game in 2013. He helped Illinois improve 95 places in the national total offense rankings, rising from 120th to 25th.
But he loses starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and three of the top four wide receivers. So adding three wide receivers who will enroll in January and participate in spring practice is significant, Cubit said.
“It’s huge. We have kids coming in who can be really good players so it’s going to be a very interesting spring," he said. "But that’s how it was last spring.
“I remember last year saying, ‘Golly, how are we going to move the ball?’ But they just played.”
Cubit and Beckman each refuted a Chicago Tribute report over the weekend that said running back Donovonn Young was transferring.
“I don’t know where that came from,” Beckman said. “He’s working out in the weight room right now. Yes, he’s going to stay.”
Beckman also said running back Dami Ayoola, who was suspended for the 2013 season, is on track to rejoin the team. Expect an announcement confirming that in January.
The group of new players includes junior college twins Tyree and Tyrin Stone-Davis, who arrive from Pierce College in California. Each player is 6-foot-3 with Tyrin joining Cubit’s offense as a wide receiver and Tyree joining the defense as a potential cornerback or safety.
The other junior college wide receiver is also 6-foot-3. Geronimo Allison – who goes by the name G-Mo – had 69 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns this past season for Iowa Western Community College.
Cubit is very high on quarterback Chayce Crouch, a 6-4, 220-pounder who is graduating early from Newark Catholic High School in Granville, Ohio.
“I traveled all over the country trying to find guys and I look for intangibles,” Cubit said. “Are you going to be a hard-worker? Can you be a really great guy in the quarterback room? I want a guy who is going to do everything he can, who is smart.
“Chayce didn’t go to a lot of camps because he was playing basketball and baseball, so not a lot of people saw him. But he’s a tall, athletic kid and he’s tough…my kind of guy.”
The group includes defensive lineman Paul James III, who was unable to enroll last fall due to an academic shortcoming he has since taken care of, Beckman said.
“He definitely has some capabilities to be an outstanding outside pass rusher,” Beckman said.
Beckman said he will sign six or seven more prospects in early February.