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#AskTCR: More Questions On Ahmad Starks


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On Tuesday night we got the answer to the Ahmad Starks question, and as tends to happen when you get an answer to a question, it only led to more questions. As we went over earlier this morning, a lot of those questions simply can't be answered until the Illini take the court this fall, but we'll try to answer the ones we can right now.

And if you have a question you'd like to see answered in next week's edition of #AskTCR here's how you go about doing it.

There are two ways to ask The Champaign Room your questions. You can tweet them at us on Twitter using the hashtag #AskTCR -- it just makes it easier to keep track -- or you can email them to us at And if you've got a personal question and you're worried about your privacy, just tell us. Well change your name to Tom Crean when we publish it on the site. And remember, you can ask us ANYTHING. It doesn't have to be about Illinois or even sports.

Let's get to the questions. We have quite a few this week.

I believe so, yes. While it's entirely possible that Starks could graduate this year and then be eligible to transfer anywhere he wants to for his senior season, if he truly transferred to Illinois to be closer to his grandmother, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? Not unless he's transferring to DePaul or something, but he could have done that from the beginning and had a much greater chance of playing this season.

It's also possible that Starks could graduate and just decide he's done with both school and basketball. In fact, maybe that was the plan all along. Starks came to Illinois so he could be closer to home, and if he was eligible to play this season, awesome. If not he just concentrates on finishing school.

Only Ahmad Starks and the coaching staff know what that answer is.

But I do think that if Starks does want to use all of his college eligibility then it will be Illinois he's playing at next season. While his presence would be a huge boost to this year's team, it's not like he wouldn't have value on next year's team as well. I have no idea who would be leaving -- and as things currently sit, somebody will have to leave -- Starks' presence would ensure that Quentin Snider wouldn't have to take on much responsibility in his freshman year if he wasn't ready for it.

The Illini would also be incredibly deep at the guard position with Tracy Abrams, Rayvonte Rice, Aaron Cosby, Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate, Snider and Starks. In fact, next year's team would be deep period. And it's seldom a bad thing to have so many quality players capable of contributing.

Why does the NCAA hate grandmothers? -- Scott Stein

It's not grandmothers that the NCAA hates. It's common sense. Common sense is the greatest threat to the NCAA model.

I think Groce is mislabeled as a "guard's coach," to be honest. I think that label is due more to the fact that Groce's best player when he gained national attention at Ohio was D.J. Cooper. I also think it's because he runs a free-flowing offense, which is exactly the kind of offense guards these days love to play in. But you know what? Big men like to play in the same kind of offense.

The fact is that John Groce is a player's coach. Not just a certain position. These kids realize that if they come to Illinois to play for Groce they're going to play in a system that's fun for them to play in, and also one that suits their abilities. Like, when you look at guys like Leron Black and Michael Finke, yes they're big in that they're 6'7 and 6'9 respectively, but neither of them are down-low bangers. Finke is a stretch four that's going to spend more time on the perimeter than on the block, and Black is really more of a three than he is a four.

Black will like to run the floor just as much as the guards do.

But that doesn't mean Groce can't work with that traditional banger down low. If Cliff Alexander came to Champaign the offense would feature a lot more post play and run through Alexander quite often. Just look at Ohio State where Groce was under Thad Matta when the Buckeyes had Greg Oden. It was still an offense that got up and down the court, but it adjusted to suit Oden as well.

A good coach can adjust to his personnel, and I haven't seen anything from John Groce to suggest he isn't a good coach.

I think so, but the way Bill Cubit sprinkles trick plays in I wouldn't be shocked to see Miles coming on that end around with the run pass option a few more times. I think it'll also depend on how many times the Illini run that new version of the triple option with Bailey that we saw them run a few times against Miami.

The triple option used to have three options -- what a coincidence! -- and they were the fullback up the middle, the quarterback keeping around the edge or pitching to the running back on the outside. Now there's the new version the Illini ran that features the running back getting the handoff, the quarterback keeping around the edge (basically a read option play) and now the third option is a wide receiver along the sideline.

The receiver is not supposed to block the corner in front of him on this play, and if that corner crashes down the line toward the quarterback the quarterback is then supposed to throw the ball to that now uncovered receiver and hope he can make a big play. It's the new pitch, and though many times it is still a lateral, sometimes it's a forward pass as well.

And you know what this is all going to lead to right?

The Illini are going to run this play with Bailey and Osei. And eventually Bailey is going to make the "pitch" to Osei along the sideline and Osei is going to throw deep to Ryan Lankford or somebody who has gotten wide open behind a secondary that's come up to stop the run play they saw developing in front of them.

And it's going to be awesome.

Man, I don't know. I think that's more dependent on the Nebraska defense than it is the Illinois offense at this point. But if it makes you feel better, while the Huskers have allowed over 500 yards to two of their opponents this season it's not as if the Illini defense is playing that much better. Nebraska is allowing more yards than any other defense in the Big Ten, giving up an average of 463.8 yards per game. Well, the Illini defense is ranked 11th in the conference, giving up 463.3 yards. So there's not much of a difference there.

I don't know. I think Purdue is trying to help make the Affordable Care Act more successful by making anybody who watches them play football violently ill.

Well, if the Illini are able to beat Nebraska on the road this week I think that'd be a pretty good indicator that they've got the ability to beat anybody in the conference save for Ohio State. I don't care how poorly Nebraska's defense has played, if you can win in Lincoln, you are a good football team.

But I don't know that the Illini need to be all that great to play in a New Year's Day game. After all, the Big Ten has a deal with the Heart of Dallas Bowl that is played on New Years. And that's seventh in the pecking order. So even if the Illini go 6-6 they can play on New Year's Day.

But I'm pretty sure you meant the Rose, Capital One, Outback and Gator Bowls. And yes, if Illinois beats Nebraska this week I would think that means this team is good enough to get to one of those bowl games this year. But, honestly, I don't care what bowl it is they went to, I'd just be thrilled if the Illini got to one.

It's amazing how these rumors pop up immediately, isn't it? It's almost like somebody somewhere hears the news that Kiffin got fired and asks themselves "I wonder if Ty Isaac would transfer to Illinois now" and then suddenly it's a rumor that's picking up steam.

I have no idea whether or not there's any truth to this rumor, and your question is the first I've even heard of it. However, I will say that before Isaac committed to USC there had been some talk from some reputable sources that he was seriously considering Illinois. So if he was having some second thoughts then, maybe he'll start having them again now.

I certainly wouldn't be against the idea of Isaac transferring to Illinois, but I don't expect it to happen.

Actually, following my Quentin Snider story, I was asked by 247Sports if I wanted to have my own Crystal Ball prediction. I turned it down. The truth is that the only recruiting of any kind I follow is Illinois recruiting. I don't pay attention to it anywhere else.

And I'm not going to put my name out there with me saying something is going to happen unless I know for a fact that it's going to happen and I have confirmed it with reliable sources. I'm not interested in breaking news. That Snider story basically fell in my lap, and after confirming it and being convinced it was legit, I went with it.

There is a ton of positive momentum with the football program both on the field and in recruiting as well. While the 2014 class is done for the most part, I'm hearing a lot of good things about recruits in the 2015 class. I mean, Miles Boykin has already visited twice and is talking package deals with other top in-state recruits. That's nice to hear, and if the Illini keep winning we'll keep hearing positive news like that.

Any coach who isn't a complete asshole will tell you that you need talent to win football games, and the more you win the easier it is to convince that talent to come play for you. I think Tim Beckman and his staff are doing a good job of collecting that talent right now, and winning will only make that easier.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Illinois is going to be competing for the college football playoff in a few years, but I feel as though this program is starting to move in a direction that will see it winning consistently. It might not happen this year, even with the nice start, but I'm a lot more optimistic about things now than I was a few months ago. I think everybody is.

You know, as I've said already, I think it's a great thing that Gameday is coming to Evanston. It's a deserved honor for Northwestern given the turnaround for the program. But, that said, I do feel there is one thing I have to remind you of and then a question of my own to ask you.

First of all, I'm not sure you remember what happened last time Northwestern "hosted" Gameday, but don't worry, because we certainly do.

Secondly, I have some questions for you.

What's it like knowing you'll be hosting a Gameday on your campus and seeing more fans of the visiting team behind the Gameday set in the morning than your own? Also, what will it be like knowing that on the night you've hosted Gameday there will be a sea of red in your stadium?

What's it like to matter when nobody cares that you do?


Thanks for the questions! If you submitted a question that didn't get answered, don't worry, it's possible that I'm just saving it for the next mailbag. It's also possible the question sucked and you need to ask better questions next time. I guess you'll just have to wait to find out.

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