Asmussen | No surprises any extra for Illini offense | Sports activities
CHAMPAIGN — Two years in the past, he was “the brand new man.”
Although he had labored within the Large Ten earlier than — at each Michigan and Indiana — Rod Smith was in his first season as offensive coordinator at Illinois.
The ends in 2018 have been spectacular. Led by working again Reggie Corbin, Illinois’ scoring went up greater than 10 factors per recreation. And complete offense elevated by higher than 128 yards.
In 2019, Smith’s second 12 months, scoring ticked up a bit. However complete offense dropped 79 yards per recreation.
Backside line, in fact, is wins. That quantity went up two. Lovie Smith’s six wins have been essentially the most of his Illinois profession and equaled essentially the most on the faculty since 2014.
So, would Rod Smith somewhat be the “new man” with an opportunity to shock the competitors? Or does he want his present standing as a returning coordinator with a bunch of returning gamers on a group that went to a bowl recreation final season?
“I might somewhat have the returning gamers to be trustworthy with you,” Smith mentioned Thursday. “The primary 12 months’s wonderful. You may sneak up on individuals or catch individuals unexpectedly. However I might a lot somewhat have the child who’s had success coming again for one more 12 months.”
Familiarity supplies confidence. And the prospect to construct this system.
Smith continues to study Large Ten opponents. He’s going into his third video games towards Wisconsin, Minnesota and remainder of the West. He’ll see Rutgers for the third 12 months in a row, albeit with a brand new head coach in Greg Schiano.
“The extra you play someone, the extra you get aware of them,” Smith mentioned. “Completely, it will possibly assist.”
Work to doRod Smith’s character works nicely along with his group, which is loaded with expertise. He has a self-deprecating humorousness.
Throughout Thursday’s Zoom session with the media, he mentioned, “I’ve received a face for radio.”
The remainder of the Illini offensive employees returns. Folks he is aware of and trusts.
Receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker has been at Illinois for 5 years. Working backs coach Mike Bellamy performed on the faculty and is in his second stint on the employees. Tight ends coach Cory Patterson was a profitable highschool coach simply over the border in St. Louis.
And offensive line coach Bob McClain has a protracted historical past with Smith.
Put all of it collectively, with a pacesetter who doesn’t care who will get credit score, and you’ve got the makings of a profitable offense.
There aren’t any ensures clearly. Whereas Smith actually has a greater understanding of the Large Ten right now than he did two years in the past, the opponents have additionally discovered.
Large Ten defensive coordinators are fast to determine your weaknesses and attempt to discover methods to take advantage of them.
Brandon Peters and the opposite Illinois quarterbacks have been sacked 39 occasions in a 13-game season. Laborious to think about that quantity being repeated in 9 video games. However a big drop from the three sack per recreation common will probably be a should.
The Illini will probably be examined from the beginning. With out the advantage of nonconference tuneup video games, they open at No. 19 Wisconsin on Oct. 24. Final season, the Badgers had 51 sacks.
“You don’t have a possibility to knock the rust off and get the kinks out,” Smith mentioned. “We’ve received to be sharp. We’ve received to be crisp with what we’re doing. You’re going towards one of many higher groups, if not the most effective group, on this convention.”
Key roleEvery assistant on the group is necessary. All of them play a significant position within the success of the soccer group.
However for a defensive-minded head coach like Lovie Smith, none is extra essential than his offensive coordinator.
He missed on his first strive at Illinois. Garrick McGee was not the suitable match and Smith had no selection however to make a change after the 2017 season.
Rod Smith has a protracted, profitable historical past as an offensive assistant. He has labored in Energy 5 packages beneath good coaches.
Coming to Illinois gave him an opportunity to ascertain his personal identification after being most intently related to Wealthy Rodriguez.
The Illinois coach is joyful to have the opposite Smith as a part of his program.
“It’s gone nicely,” Lovie Smith mentioned. “It all the time helps whenever you maintain the identical system in place for the gamers.
“Rod has executed a wonderful job since he’s been right here.”
For the primary time, Rod Smith brings again final 12 months’s beginning quarterback. Peters enters his closing season after transferring from Michigan in 2019.
“We haven’t been in that scenario shortly,” Lovie Smith mentioned. “We’re actually pumped up.”
The return of four-fifths of the offensive line provides to the pinnacle coach’s confidence.
“That means that you can do a number of various things,” Lovie Smith mentioned. “I can’t wait to see what we seem like on the offensive aspect.”
The defensive coordinator in Lovie Smith needed an offensive system with a throwing quarterback, who additionally has the power to run.
Peters isn’t identified for his fleet ft, however he’s the group’s main returning rusher from 2019.
“You name the sport, I feel, to the ability set of your quarterback,” Rod Smith mentioned. “I simply assume Brandon could make each throw. He’s received an incredible arm. He’s received a very good thoughts.”
Bob Asmussen might be reached at 217-393-8248 or by e mail at email@example.com.