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August 21, 2012
The discipline and the timetables are military-style, and the attack is more open. Very pretty, General ... but will they win?
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August 21, 2012

Illinois Fighting Illini

The discipline and the timetables are military-style, and the attack is more open. Very pretty, General ... but will they win?











IN 2012 THE ILLINOIS MOTTO IS OPERATION NEW ERA. EVERYTHING has changed: the coaching staff, the offense, the team meals. Not least is the change in on-time performance. "Everything we do, we're gonna be 10 minutes early," says new coach Tim Beckman of the system he calls Illini Time. He means everything: "If you've got a date at six, you better pick her up at 5:50."

So far, the team has bought in. "Does being 10 minutes early rather than right on time make a difference in how many games you win?" asks junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who will run the new spread offense. "You can say it doesn't, but if you're a team that understands discipline and doing what's expected of you, it does."

Beckman, who arrived from Toledo to replace Ron Zook, intends to make the Illini just such a team. Everything is measured and recorded, and players are rewarded accordingly. At team banquets, players and coaches who have met certain requirements join the All In club and dine on steak and bacon, while those who've lagged eat oatmeal.

Fortunately for Beckman, the defense is decidedly All In. In 2011 the unit was in the top 10 nationally in passing defense, tackles for loss, total defense and sacks. It again will be buoyed by standouts: linemen Michael Buchanan and Akeem Spence, linebacker Jonathan Brown and cornerback Terry Hawthorne.

The offense, though, will be revamped. The Illini will run an up-tempo, mostly no-huddle, modified spread, placing more playmakers on the field for Scheelhaase to target. "We're going to do things that might be a little different than what's been done in the Big Ten," promises Beckman.

Special teams will sport a gimmick. Other than the quarterback, position starters will be required to play on one of them, which have military names (the punt team is the SEALs, the punt return Recon, the kickoff team Delta, the kick return Bravo) to remind players of the intensity with which they must approach an area that often was woeful last year.

If Beckman's orders are followed, everyone could be dining on filet mignon. As Scheelhaase (who had tastes of both steak and oatmeal in the spring) puts it, "In life winners are rewarded, and losers don't get the same things winners get."

the vitals

COACH Tim Beckman (1st year)

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