We all know how bad the 2012 season was for Illinois, and we've also heard about the job the coaching staff did -- bad -- but we've offered excuses about the amount of talent that was on the roster and injuries to help explain some of it. None of this is new.
However, what is new is a study my old CBS colleague Matt Hinton did over at Football Study Hall.
I'm not going to go into the specifics of all the math he did both because it would take forever and also because my grasp of advanced football metrics is at more of a novice level at this point, so I probably couldn't explain it if I tried.
Though if you want to learn more about them I strongly suggest buying this book. I read it, and not only did I enjoy it, but I learned a bit as well.
Anyway, essentially what Hinton did was take data from the recruiting classes of every FBS school from 2002 to 2012 and compared it to the actual performances of the teams from 2006 to 2012 (2006 was the year the 2002 class would be seniors or redshirt juniors). He then came up with a number that showed which coaches got the most out of their talent, and it also showed which coaches got the least out of their talent in any given season.
And Tim Beckman's 2012 was one of the worst seasons. In fact, Beckman's first year at Illinois checked in as the 16th worst season of the last 10 years with a score of -1.86. Only Auburn's Gene Chizik (-2.56) and Kentucky's Joker Phillips (-2.10) had worse seasons in 2012, and both were fired.
The worst season in any of the years included was Paul Wulff at Washington State in 2009, as he had a score of -3.22.
Now, upon reading that there will immediately be some people who start talking about Ron Zook, but before you start defending Zook you should remember his seasons were evaluated too. And to the surprise of nobody who paid any attention, Zook's teams underperformed as well.
In the six Zook seasons included in the chart, he had an average score of -0.25, with his worst season being a -1.64 in 2009 and his best being a 0.88 in 2007. Of course, we need to point out that had 2005 been included (Zook's first season in which the Illini went 2-9) odds are his average score would have been lower.
So while Zook never had a season as bad as Beckman's 2012, he wasn't exactly getting the most out of his talent either. Plus, let's remember that the talent Beckman had to work with in 2012 was mostly Zook's.
Of course, more important than trying to compare Beckman to Zook is the fact that, no matter which coach it is, the Illini have underperformed the last few years. That's something that needs to change, and hopefully that will begin this season.
Overachievers are just so much more fun.