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#AskTCR Mailbag: What Are They Going To Do With The End Zones?



It's the weekend, so you know what that means. It's time for another edition of the #AskTCR Mailbag, though this will be the last edition in which I don't have a nephew. That's right, sometime within the next 48 hours my sister will be giving birth to her second child, allowing me to complete my Uncle Set by having both a niece and a nephew. And if I can be honest for a moment, I can't tell you how excited I am that my sister is having a boy.

It's nothing against my niece, whom I adore, it's just that I'm 32 and since finishing school just about all my friends have gotten married and started having children. And they've all had girls. Seriously, there is not a boy in the bunch. So I'm very much looking forward to having a little human around that likes to do boy things.


Anyway, this is a mailbag. You may have a question you'd like me to answer, but you're not sure how to do so. This is how you can go about doing so.

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.

So let's get to the questions.

I know you didn't submit this question to the mailbag, but I wanted to save it for here anyway. I have no idea what they're going to do to the end zones, if they do anything at all. My guess is that if there are changes coming to the end zone, we're not going to see them until next season. Right now I think the focus is on the scoreboard and the ribbon boards and things of that nature around Memorial Stadium.

Personally I don't care that much about the end zone, either. If they keep the italic Illinois in them, it's not going to matter much to me. I'm much more interested in seeing the Illini get to the end zone rather than what's in the end zone.

However, Birkhead mentioned in a comment on the site the other day the idea of doing an orange and blue checkerboard end zone like what they do at Tennessee. This is an idea I could get behind, whether it be the checkerboard or an argyle-like diamond pattern. Remember, we live in an age where shiny new helmets could be enough to sway a recruit to play for you instead of somebody else, and an end zone like that is just another version of a shiny new helmet.

It's different, and being different gets attention.

Like Jeff, you did not use the #AskTCR hashtag, yet you meant this question for the mailbag. I know because this was a reply to one of our #AskTCR tweets. USE THE HASHTAG. If only because I'm lazy and it makes it a lot easier for me to keep track of your question.

Be considerate of my desire to not make any more effort than I have to.

As for the question, it's a good one. We'll start with basketball because I think that's much easier to figure out. The first name that came to my mind was Rayvonte Rice because Rayvonte is pretty much just a ball of muscle. He's listed at 6'4 and 235 pounds, and to put that in perspective, Jonathan Brown, our star linebacker, is 6'1 and 235 pounds.

Ray is literally a linebacker playing guard for the Illini. And at 6'4 it's possible that he could fill that hybrid role of linebacker/defensive end in the Illini defensive scheme.

My other choice would be Nnanna Egwu for nothing more than a goalline package in which he lines up outside, runs a fade and then Nathan Scheelhaase just throws a ball up in the air and laughs as the 6'0 cornerback covering the 6'11 Nnanna flails helplessly.

Seriously, if Nnanna can catch a football, why the hell isn't Tim Beckman doing this? Why isn't any football coach doing this with his school's basketball players?

Now, when it comes to finding a football player to put on the basketball team, it's not nearly as easy. While you can see what kind of traits the basketball players have that could be useful on a football field, it's not as obvious in football. However, when you consider how many basketball players have made good tight ends in the NFL in recent years -- Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates -- I look at the tight ends and I see Matt LaCosse at 6'6 and 240 pounds. I have no idea if Matt can shoot or handle a basketball, but with that size I know he can pound the shit out of somebody in the lane and maybe he can rebound.

Yes and no.

It has a bigger impact in football than basketball. When it comes to basketball the Illini have had trouble landing the elite Chicago players like Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker just to name a few. However, we still get some of the state's best players on a regular basis.

In the 2013 class alone the Illini got three of the top ten players in the state -- using 247's composite rankings -- in Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill and Jaylon Tate. Mike Shaw, Myke Henry, Tracy Abrams, and Nnanna Egwu were all top ten players in the state as well. As were guys like Brandon Paul, Jereme Richmond, Meyers Leonard, Crandall Head and D.J. Richardson would have been too had he not been playing at prep school in Nevada.

It just seems like we've had problems in basketball because a lot of those players we did get didn't turn out to be nearly as good as we had hoped they would and the top guys that left the state all did. But the truth is we won't have a real shot with those elite guys until we're contending in the Big Ten on a regular basis.

And then there's football. Just doing a quick look back at the last five years, here's how many of the top 30 players -- according to Rivals -- in the state of Illinois that went to Illinois: 23. That's 23 out of 150, or 15%. That's terrible.

What makes that number worse?

When I tell you that eight of those 23 were in the 2011 class, meaning we had 15 in the other four years.

It gets even thinner when you look at the top ten recruits in the state of Illinois, as we only landed six in the last five years, and four of those came in 2009. The other two were Chandler Whitmer in 2010 and Aaron Bailey in 2013.

And things aren't looking much different in 2014, as Nick Allegretti is the only top 30 player from Illinois that the Illini have landed, and it looks like Nile Sykes and Aaron Roberts are the only other two top 30 guys we have a legit shot with.

I don't think Illinois is ever going to lock down the top state players when Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State are snooping around, but we certainly can and need to do better in the top 30.

When I was younger it would have been the first minute or so of Korn's "Blind" and I'd have taken my sweet time getting out there.

Now, however, shit has changed. I watch a lot of UFC, and I maintain that if I was an MMA fighter this would be my entrance music.

I'm serious too.

Think about it. If you're standing in the middle of the octagon and your opponent comes walking out to some metal or hip-hop music, you don't even bat an eyelash. Everybody does.

But if your opponent comes walking out to "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows?" Holy shit. You know you are dealing with a fucking psycho and you are now scared you are going to die. Your opponent gives no fucks.

You know, I've generally seen every musical act I'd want to see. I really can't think of anybody. I guess Arcade Fire because I've never seen them live and I like them. Either them or the Black Keys or Spoon. But, in truth, I just don't go to a lot of concerts anymore.

Still, no matter who I see, it will never come close to the time I saw Rage Against The Machine and the Wu-Tang Clan live in Tinley Park. That was the greatest fucking concert to ever happen, and that will never change. It was the mosh pit to end all mosh pits.

I'm pretty sure the Hoosiers would beat Mini John Groce 250-2.

No I did not see it, but that number next to Illinois' name usually means that somebody somewhere fucked up.

For this week's final question, I asked myself one.

"When the hell are we going to find out about Ahmad Stark's eligibility for next season?"

I have no idea, so I went to the source himself.

Well shit.


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.

Follow The Champaign Room on Twitter at @Champaign_Room and Like us on Facebook. You can follow Tom Fornelli on Twitter at @TomFornelli.

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