Sorry for the delay in publishing this week's mailbag. Spent Wednesday morning getting back down from Chicago to Plainfield and then spent yesterday making my final Plainfield to Manhattan drive. But that's over, so let's get to answering some weird questions.
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 email@example.com. And if you've got a personal question and you're worried about your privacy, just tell us. We'll 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.
@Champaign_Room what are some realistic improvements we can expect to see next year from the defense? Maybe this is better for a #AskTCR— Mark Garofalo (@MarkIllini24) December 28, 2014
Getting everyone back healthy next year should help improve the defense a great deal. The defensive line was just decimated by injuries. Mike Svetina being out the entire year hurt the linebacker corps. Getting them back won't be enough to turn the moribund unit into a great one, but it should help at least get them out of being a bottom 20 defense. Dawaune Smoot, Jarrod Clements, and Jihad Ward all come back with another year of experience under their belts and that should improve the pass rush situation. Hopefully Clayton Fejedelem gets the starting nod at one of the safety positions with Zane Petty graduating. Fej improved tremendously as the season went on and has earned it. Above all else though, THE DEFENSE NEEDS TO LEARN HOW TO TACKLE. Three years of no one wrapping up or being able to bring a ball carrier down have driven me batty.
@Champaign_Room Michigan & OSU this week, early prediction for both #AskTCR— Justin Roberson (@Jstnro40) December 29, 2014
Even if the mailbag had been on time, it would have been too late for me to predict the Michigan game so I'll just skip that. As for tomorrow's game, I'm not optimistic. If it were in Champaign, we might sneak away with a win. But I just don't see this team taking down the Buckeyes in Columbus at this point in the season. Ohio State wins by 10.
@Champaign_Room: When Wes Lunt was benched, was his ineffectiveness caused by his injuries or is he just a bad QB? #AskTCR— Bob Maynard (@BobMaynard7) December 29, 2014
Bob's last three tweets have been asking me essentially the same question about Wes Lunt. It's getting a bit creepy. Wes Lunt is not a bad quarterback. Behind a healthy offensive line, he'll be a pretty damn good one. Illinois didn't have that this year. So when you have an offensive line that is more or less an army of backups protecting a guy who just came back from a broken leg, you're not going to have a very good time.
An email from Scott-
Do I get extra credit in the Champaign Room bowl picks pool for selecting Illinois to win and putting the max 39 confidence points on it?
No, you poor deluded fool, you do not.
If you had the choice, Marcus LoVett for 4 years or Jamal Murray for no more than 2 seasons? Champaign_Room #AskTCR— Chris Yates (@CPY87) December 29, 2014
LoVett for 4. We need a true point guard. Jalen Coleman-Landis will probably be fine at the one, but I think he's more of a shooting guard than an actual point guard. So our 2015 class has 1.5 SG (JCL and Aaron Jordan). Murray should be great wherever he winds up and I'd be thrilled if Illinois got him, but in this either or scenario I want four years of LoVett dishing out dimes.
@Champaign_Room 4 of first 5 on road in B1G for men's hoops. 3-2 too much to ask for those 5? #AskTCR— Mike Rohan (@MikePRohan) December 29, 2014
Before the Michigan loss, I would have said 3-2 is hardly too much to ask for. I've already said I don't think we'll win in Columbus and Maryland is pretty damn good this year. Nebraska and Northwestern are both very beatable. That damn Michigan game just looms menacingly over this entire exercise though. Upsets definitely happen, but I don't like banking on them. It's looking like 2-3 will be far more likely.
@Champaign_Room #AskTCR UM got their "Michigan" guy in Harbaugh. Who would be the ideal "Illini" guy to coach Illini football to greatness?— Andy George (@MrOrangenblue) December 29, 2014
I don't think we have one. Harbaugh has all that success in both the NCAA and the NFL and comes with the bonus of having been a decent QB for the Wolverines to boot. Unless I'm completely overlooking someone, there is no former Illini doing big things in the coaching world. Tim Brewster does not count. There might be guys who'd be fantastic hires for us (Justin Fuente), but we don't have that wonderful PR homerun that was just experienced in Ann Arbor.
An email from David-
2-time defending NCAA Champion Jesse Delgado (wrestling, 125 lbs.) has not competed since early November. The coaching staff and media have only made brief mention of some undisclosed injury. He was entered into the Midlands tournament at Northwestern this week, but once again did not wrestle. Do you have any insight on if/when the best athlete at Illinois will compete again?
I consulted our site's resident wrestling guru Brandon and this was his response.
What he knows is exactly what I know.
Delgado had planned to wrestle at Midlands, but was a late scratch. Zane Richards is at 133 pounds and true freshman Jered Cortez of Glenbard North (4-time IHSA state champion) is wrestling unattached at that same weight. Unattached means he is not officially affiliated with Illinois at this tournament. Illinois coaches cannot be in his corner and he cannot wear Illinois singlets. Wrestling unattached also preserves the option of redshirting this season and keeping an additional year of eligibility. Due to Cortez being unattached it appears Delgado is still nursing the aforementioned undisclosed injury, but will wrestle this season. Show up to Huff Hall on Jan. 9 for the Big Ten opener against Rutgers.
Sorry we couldn't be more helpful.
@Champaign_Room What is a realistic expectation (record wise) for the football team next year with the tough schedule? #AskTCR— Blake Woodard (@blake_woodard) December 29, 2014
I'm expecting at least 3-1 from the OOC schedule. Kent State, Western Illinois, and Middle Tennessee State should all be wins. If the offense is going well, we can beat the Tarheels but the game is in North Carolina so I'm fine with chalking that down as a loss for now. In conference play, we're going to lose to Wisconsin and Ohio State. We should beat Purdue and Northwestern. So that gives us 5-3. I have no idea what to expect from Nebraska right now. Probably won't until that Saturday. I do think we could win at least one of the four remaining games (Nebraska, @ Iowa, @ Penn State, @ Minnesota), so I'm fine with saying 6-6 right now.
@Champaign_Room What seed will the Illini have in the CFB playoff next year? #AskTCR— Mike Zagorski (@mzagorskijr) December 29, 2014
@Champaign_Room How should it make me feel as a Packers fan when I see Ron Zook on the sideline at Lambeau? #askTCR— Austin McDowell (@austin_mcd97) December 29, 2014
You're from Illinois. You should feel bad for being a Packers fan in general. Shame on you.
@Champaign_Room Based on the performance in the bowl game and returning starters what should the Illini concentrate on this spring? #AskTCR— Duane Louis Phillips (@RunDLP) December 30, 2014
1. Staying healthy. Self-explanatory.
2. Reestablishing the running game. If this offense gets one dimensional, Wes Lunt will get broken again. And there's no Reilly O'Toole waiting in the wings next year.
3. TACKLING. Dear god, tackling. All of it. Wrapping up, hitting low instead of high, proper angles of pursuit. Something has to give.
@Champaign_Room #askrebecca Best name: Reilly O'Toole, Wes Lunt, Aaron Bailey, Man Berg? #askTCR— Bryce (@OrangeBlueCraze) December 30, 2014
"I have to go with Man Berg because it's like he's an iceberg made out of man."
I agree wholeheartedly.
@Champaign_Room Not trying to stir the pot after that loss, but what should be the measuring stick for this basketball season now? #AskTCR— Anthony Borkowski (@AJB_29) December 30, 2014
Same as it was before: tournament or bust. That loss sucked, but it's not like we were going to make it through conference play completely unscathed and I'll take a loss at Michigan over a loss at Northwestern any day. As long as they make the dance, this season was okay. Two wins in March and this season was great. NIT? Failure of a year.
Have we put too much faith in John Groce to build a consistent winning program? One that beats up on BIG teams regularly. #askTCR— Gary Guidi (@BisonGary) December 31, 2014
I don't think we have. Things have been a little disappointing this season and definitely frustrating at times, but it's only January. If things stay bad though the month, I'll agree with you.
Is the hype for the new Star Wars movie too hot? Too cold? Or just right? #askTCR— Gary Guidi (@BisonGary) December 31, 2014
I was in 5th grade when Episode 1 came out. For my birthday that year, my dad took a group of me and some friends to go see it. Even as a ten-year-old I realized something wasn't quite right. I am not optimistic that Episode 7 is going to be any good. I really don't want to see Harrison Ford playing an aged Han Solo. They played those roles 30 some odd years ago and time is an asshole. Also, why is that droid on a soccer ball? Why does that lightsaber have bladeguards? It all just seems so unnecessary. I'll go see it, but it's going to be bad.
@Champaign_Room Watching Boise State slice up Arizona in the Fiesta bowl...what the hell is wrong at Illinois?! #AskTCR— BigToe (@BigToe66) December 31, 2014
A Board of Trustees that doesn't want the stigma of being a sports school leading to an unwillingness in spending the money required to actually get great coaches and retain good assistants. Also a whole lot of fan apathy.
@Champaign_Room When does Urban unveil his master plan of the tri-QB offensive system? #AskTCR— Mike Zagorski (@mzagorskijr) January 2, 2015
I think last night was a damn fine unveiling of it. It's just unfair that they have three quarterbacks on their roster that are that damn good. SHARE THE WEALTH YOU GREEDY BASTARDS.
But yeah, if Braxton doesn't transfer I demand a play with him, Barrett, and Jones all in the backfield at once.