Lincoln Logs is an 11-part series from The Champaign Room's Brandon Birkhead explaining how the University of Illinois can go about building a winning football program.
In one of the moves that perplexed me when Tim Beckman announced his staff in 2012, the Illini decided to go with co-offensive coordinators instead of just one. Billy Gonzales and Chris Beatty shared the role for last season. Rumors had it that Beatty was responsible for the 1st and 2nd down calls, while Gonzales took the third down calls.
We all know how that worked out.
The Illini lacked playmakers, but the offense clearly was never in sync in 2012. I think part of the blame for that has to go to the coaching staff, and a big issue there, I believe, was the unclear coaching roles on the offensive staff.
Chris Beatty was responsible for being the Quarterback's coach, along with being one of the two offensive coordinators. Billy Gonzales, the other, was also the WR coach. That is too many hats for each of those guys to wear.
Instead of being able to focus just on running the entire offense and calling plays, these two coaches also had to worry about coaching an entire position of players, not an easy task. This makes it so all three jobs are done worse, because all three have less attention to pay than is demanded in the Big Ten and major college football.
Another issue, beyond just the day-to-day running of the offense, game-day play calling is hurt. Each individual offensive coordinator, no matter if they run the same system, has a different rhythm and flow to how they call the game. You will not find two coaches who agree exactly the same about play calling.
We all know what a football offense looks like when it is in rhythm. It's one of the most beautiful things in sports. Each piece of the team working in unison, not missing a beat, and moving the ball down the field.
A key factor to an offense's rhythm and timing is the play calling. Each play, even a 2-yard run up the middle, or even for a loss, has a purpose; to set up future plays. When plays are called on 1st and 2nd down, these were not only being called to gain yards, but to set up future plays. But when you add another voice calling these plays, another football mind with different football ideas and values, the plays will not exactly flow together, and the overall rhythm of the offense is damaged.
I believe that having two offensive coordinators was a huge factor in the offense's inability to ever get into a good flow in 2012, which was a large part of the offense's failure overall. The coaches didn't have clear roles. They had to worry about multiple jobs instead of focusing on one aspect, one piece of the machine.
Tim Beckman made changes to his staff, along with letting both Billy Gonzales and Chris Beatty go. To replace them, he hired Bill Cubit to be the sole offensive coordinator. Having one person in charge of the offense will allow play calling to flow much better on game days, and it will also allow practices to run more efficiently as there are not coaches having to play multiple roles.
Beckman or anyone else should not interfere. Let the offense be Cubit's. Let him run it as he sees fit. Let him play his role as offensive coordinator the way he wishes. Let the offense have that clarity.
That in and of itself should allow the Illini's offense to improve next year. Clear coaching roles go a long way.