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#AskTCR: Hope For Cliff Alexander?


See, this kind of shit is creepy
See, this kind of shit is creepy

It's been a pretty busy week around the Illini hasn't it? Football games, basketball commits, players getting kicked off the team. Every time I turn my head there's another god damn post to write.

Like, I'm writing this on Tuesday night and I'm going to schedule it for Wednesday morning. And because I'm doing this I know that some major news is going to break five minutes after this goes up on the site because that's just how things have been lately.

Anyway, you aren't here to listen to me complain, and frankly, I don't know what the hell I'm complaining for anyway. OH NO, SO MANY CONTENT OPTIONS! WHAT'S A WRITER TO DO!?

Let's just get to the Mailbag. If you want to see one of your questions in next week's mailbag, here's how you go about doing that.

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.

To the questions!

You know, my original answer to this question when I first saw it was going to be that while you shouldn't give up on Alexander, I wouldn't hold my breath. And then this happened. Now I legitimately have no idea what to think.

I think what Will Leitch wrote over at Sports On Earth yesterday was pretty perfect. It sickens me the kind of attention we pay to high school kids. Personally I can't stand when people on Twitter harass recruits, whether it's because they've chosen another school, or even when it's just to say "HEY, YOU SHOULD COME TO OUR SCHOOL." I don't know that it makes an actual difference in recruiting, all I know is that if I was the 17-year old kid with grown ass adults approaching me like a stranger with candy in an unmarked van on the street, I'd be creeped the fuck out.

Yet, as much as it makes me feel skeevy, I can't stop paying attention to it, either. I may not talk to the recruits, but I sure as hell pay attention to what they do. I have no idea what Cliff Alexander is going to do BUT I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HE'S GOING TO DO MORE THAN JUST ABOUT ANYTHING IN THE WORLD.

Okay, maybe not that badly, but still. I really want to know what he's going to do.

As for whether or not he's going to come here, before Tuesday I'd have said no. But as I said, now I have no idea. Does landing Leron Black make Illinois all that much more attractive to Alexander than it was before? Maybe, I mean, Black wouldn't be a bad guy to play alongside with for the year Cliff was in Champaign. And I'm pretty sure that with both Alexander and Black on the floor the Illini would have a rebounding edge over just about anybody they faced.

But I can't get my hopes up. Right now there are two crystal ball predictions saying Illinois. If more and more follow, maybe I'll change my mind on it. But even though John Groce has proven multiple times that he can close with a recruit, and even though Leron Black is a big-time recruit, when it comes to guys like Cliff -- you know, the Chicago stud, our white whale -- I just can't expect it to happen until it does.

I think it will happen. I think John Groce will get it done. Will it be Cliff Alexander he gets it done with? I have no idea.

No. He's not Michael Jordan. I love the signing, but these are not the expectations we should be putting on Leron Black. I mean, even if he was that kind of talent, he wouldn't stick around four seasons anyway.

While we're still on the subject of Leron and Cliff, though, there is one thing I noticed that I wanted to mention. Over at 247Sports they rate players in eight different categories on a scale of one to ten. Things like size, athleticism, defense, motor, etc. Well, when you add up all eight of Cliff Alexander's ratings you get a total of 59. When you add up all of Leron Black's ratings you get a total of 63.

Yet Alexander is a five-star ranked as the third best player in the 2014 class and Leron is a four-star that's ranked thirty-eighth. I get that it's because Alexander has the higher ceiling, but I find it funny all the same.

I think I'd rather win five games. Beating Ohio State would be fun and all, but it would be fun for one weekend. If the Illini went 5-7 that means we'd have five weekends to enjoy and there's be a lot more hope about the future.

Plus, for the Illini to get to five wins they're going to have to pull off some upsets along the way. So while maybe we don't get the chance to kill Ohio State's title hopes, we would still get to revel in spoiling somebody's day.

You know, it's strange. When I saw that O'Toole was in the game my first thought was "well they said O'Toole was going to get some snaps this week, but this sure seems like a strange time to do it." And then after the game Beckman said they put him in there because they told him they were going to get him some snaps.

I didn't like the decision, but I also get where Beckman was coming from. He told Reilly he was going to play and he didn't want to go back on his word. And even if he does go back on his word and tells O'Toole that he's not going in because "this game isn't over yet" he's basically just telling his backup quarterback that he doesn't believe in him.

Considering Nate's injury history, that's really not the message you want to send to his backup. I know we're all impressed with Aaron Bailey, but I don't think the coaching staff is ready to hand the reins over to him just yet. At least, not while there's something to play for.

So I'm not nearly as mad at Beckman for it as I probably would have been if the Illini lost. To be honest, I'm madder about Tim Banks getting the sideline interference call than I am the O'Toole decision. How many fucking times do Illini coaches need to be called for that before it dawns on them to, I don't know, maybe stay the fuck off the field?

Quarterback. Easy. There are a lot of important positions on a football team, but in the college game there's no position that can help turn your program around like an elite quarterback.

Just look at Louisville. It was a good program that had some success with Brian Brohm while Bobby Petrino was there, but the program wasn't anything amazing. Then Petrino left and from 2007 through 2010 the Cardinals went 22-27.

And then five-star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater showed up in 2011.

Since then Louisville has gone 19-8, won a Sugar Bowl, are considered an actual title contender this season and will likely end up in another BCS bowl this season at worst. If Bridgewater returned for his senior season -- and he won't, but we all thought that of Andrew Luck too -- when Louisville joined the ACC, the Cardinals would a legit title threat.

Bridgewater has completely turned the momentum of the entire program around. Now, it wasn't him alone, as Louisville has brought in other talented players, but he started it. Mark my words, once he's gone, Louisville will still be a good team, but it won't be a team you expect to qualify for the playoff every season.

You're going to have to wait until Thursday's edition of You Bet Your Ass to find out the answer to that question.


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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