Tim Beckman eyes his own Braxton Miller
In a season that continues to get worse as each week passes, a trip to Columbus, Ohio, to face No. 6 Ohio State isn’t going to offer any hope to Illini fans that, for some reason, feel a four-game winning streak to end the season is even remotely possible.
Even though his team is ineligible for the postseason, Urban Meyer has found a way to keep it motivated, and, more importantly, has molded his prize inheritance — quarterback Braxton Miller — from a freakishly talented athlete into a polished passer and runner that is receiving dark-horse Heisman Trophy consideration as a sophomore.
Use last season’s Ohio State victory over Illinois at Memorial Stadium as proof of his maturation. Miller threw only four passes for 17 yards and ran 12 times for just 34.
This season, he’s found the end zone 24 times while averaging 170 passing yards and 121 rushing yards per game.
The Isiah Williams era came and went with a Rose Bowl appearance and a plethora of individual accolades for the Illini quarterback more commonly known as Juice.
Having a talented quarterback is an obvious must at any level of football, but a certain verbal commitment from an in-state high school quarterback will put Beckman’s rebuilding plan over the top.
A verbal promise is about as credible as a politician’s guarantee during an election, but Bolingbrook High School quarterback Aaron Bailey is still on board with the Illini, even with their struggles this season.
His signature come signing day will be the biggest Illinois has had since former head coach Ron Zook somehow persuaded current NFL wide receiver Arrelious Benn to come to Champaign.
Scouts say Bailey is a more polished Juice. The hope that his interest in Illinois is profound.
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and the rest of the offense are beyond repair at this point. The unit’s current holes used to be filled by talented players — Mikel Leshoure, A.J. Jenkins, Jack Cornell and Jeff Allen to name a few.
Seeing the offense’s woes this year as a result of a lack of talent and experience, mainly at wide receiver and offensive line, make it seem like Scheelhaase never had success in his first two seasons as starter. And while he does seem to have a run-first instinct, Scheelhaase still is running for his life more than he should.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Many thought it would, given the talent on the defensive side of the ball, but the pieces are just not falling into place.
Maybe some coordinators will come and go during the offseason, but Beckman and his philosophy will be here for the next couple of years.
Every coach would love to start his first season 9-0 with a new team like Meyer has, especially someone that shares his ideologies and knows how to do it.
But change is coming to Champaign, and that starts with Bailey making his commitment official and signing on the dotted line Feb. 6.
All Beckman needs is to get one domino to fall and then the rest will follow suit.
Urban Meyer is already making an impact with the talented roster he inherited and will continue to improve in recruiting.
Beckman may never achieve BCS bowl status at Illinois, but he needs his guys to start developing a winning culture.
So when you see Miller carving up the Illinois defense Saturday, think of what Aaron Bailey can do for the Illini in the future.
Dan is a senior in Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WELINandDEALIN.