Football season has been over for almost 2 weeks now (at least on the campus of the University of Illinois - and some would agree that it has been even longer than that.), and yet the program still is making news. Late last week, Ron Zook made headlines by firing four assistants on the offensive side of the football. Offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Mike Schultz, as expected, was one that was let go, as was quarterbacks coach Kurt Beathard, receivers coach Jim Pry, and special teams coordinator Mike Woodford. Also making changes on the defensive side of the ball, Zook demoted Curt Mallory and Dan Disch, who were co-defensive coordinators this past year. They will remain as position coaches on defense, and the search was on to find a defensive coordinator with some high credentials. Action such as this is typical at the end of a season, especially for schools that aren't "going bowling". Many have expressed that is should have been Zook that was out the door, but athletic director Ron Guenther is sticking by his claim that Zook was safe at least for another year. Now, I am sure that all bets are off if the Illini happen to tank again next season, and then you probably will see a change at the top.
Early this week, rumors began to surface of possible replacements that were making their way to Champaign. On Tuesday, those reports were confirmed as Paul Petrino was named the new offensive coordinator. Petrino, who is the brother of former Louisville and current Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, comes to Illinois with some good credentials and a love of an "open offense" that will, in his own words, "FTS (Feed The Studs). Other reports have Jeff Brohm and Greg Nord both headed to Illinois from Louisville to fill offensive position needs. I had a chance to speak to Petrino after his introductory press conference and asked him point blank if the offense that he plans to bring to Illinois is what he ran at Arkansas. He assured me it was. So, those of you that are excited for the upcoming bowl season to start, be sure to watch Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl on January 2. You will get a good idea of what the Illini will be showcasing.
Petrino mentioned that he will employ an offense that will involve the tight ends more. Well, that could be an issue with the recent graduation of Michael Hoomanawanui and Jeff Cumberland, coupled with the transfer of Hubie Graham. This leaves Zach Becker and Justin Lattimore as the only players at the position that have actually seen time there. Also, losing highly touted prospect C. J. Fedorowicz begs the question, why wasn't this done a month ago? What harm would it have done to try and keep this prospect, that is going to Iowa?
Petrino will be without one of those "studs" come next season, as on Wednesday Arrelious "Regus" Benn (right) made his decision to forego his senior season and enter the 2010 NFL draft. This was not a shocking revelation, as everyone knows what Regus can do and he is still being projected as a high first round pick on draft day. One wonders what might have been had he not been dealing with injuries this season, or was thrown to more than he was. Still, it's a business decision and one that makes sense to me for him to make. I wish him well, but will miss seeing #9 running the sidelines catching passes and also that infectious smile.