Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The myth of Ron Zook, master recruiter

Found this great article that summarizes Ron Zook's recruiting history at Florida. I'm posting it in its entirety because I don't know how long the link will be active and I have a feeling that some Illini fans are going to want to read this as next season unfolds.

Was Zook an Ace Recruiter?
By Marty Cohen, GatorBait.net Publisher – Rivals.com

It was generous of Urban Meyer to give some recognition to Ron Zook during the post-BCS announcement press conference last weekend, acknowledging Zook for his recruitment of the upperclassmen on the 2006 SEC champs.

It was nice of Zook to drop his long-held angered stance toward Florida, vote the Gators second in his coaches poll and adopt a warm embrace toward UF's championship run.

And it's a switch to see some Gator fans giving Zook some props for the work he and his staff did in bringing in a bunch of players who eventually led Florida to its first SEC title in six years and a berth in the national championship game.

Now I realize it's the holiday season, and it's the time for good cheer and all that, but this is getting a little thick.

It was definitely gracious of Meyer, who unsolicited, tossed a bone to Zook for leaving behind what amounted to a terrific group of leaders and players who formed the backbone of the '06 squad. Of course, this is the same unbalanced collection of players that Meyer, for two years, has bemoaned the staggering lack of depth, which caused him to play more than a dozen freshmen this fall. And who is responsible for having no depth anywhere on this squad?

It is certainly pleasant to hear Zook saying positive things about Florida, especially since he will likely get some more national pub from media folks around the country who will solicit his feelings, having played Ohio State tough this year and having recruited and coached a number of the Gator players. But it also smacks as a bit self-serving. All of a sudden, the once-supremely bitter Zook is now all lovey-dovey, since it paints himself and his Illinois program in a better light. And don't think for a milli-second that Zook isn't using this in his current recruiting, pointing out to potential Illini prospects that those are "his" recruits playing in the national championship game.

And finally, a segment of Gator fans who rode the Zook train right into the ground, want to fete the man for his recruiting and all the hard work he put in during three sub-standard years at UF. Well the hard work deal is nauseating. Shouldn't everybody out there, from a shoeshine guy to a lowly sportswriter to a head coach making more than a million dollars work hard? Should that really be something that stands out as being praise-worthy?

And in terms of his recruiting prowess, maybe I'm in the minority, but I just don't buy the hype. All coaches get pigeonholed and receive a national perception. Zook's persona is that of the good guy who works hard and is a terrific recruiter. The first part doesn't matter, the second part should be a given and the third part is perhaps more myth than fact.

There is no doubt when you look at Florida's starting lineup, it is littered with Zook recruits – Leak, Baker, Caldwell, Rissler, Miller, Tartt, Trautwein and Medder on offense, Moss, McDonald, Cohen, Harris (not to mention Marcus Thomas), Siler, Everett, Lewis and Joiner on defense, plus Wilbur (I don't count Reggie Nelson, who had to be recruited all over again out of junior college by Meyer's staff).

This is a team top-heavy with contributing seniors, but that's the way it is supposed to be – wasn't Steve Spurrier's first SEC championship team in '91 loaded with fifth-year seniors from Galen Hall's superb 1987 signing class? Of course, that's the way college football works.

But I have maintained all along that Zook's recruiting has been a case of style over substance, a caste-system of five-star upper class guys and a bunch of low-level guys who rarely panned out, with no middle class. It is that middle class which gives a program consistency and reliability, the five-year guys who provide depth as youngsters and become valuable contributors as juniors and seniors.

Frankly, there hasn't been nearly enough of those guys in Zook's recruitment. Again, it's why Florida's depth situation is so dire, why this is a club loaded with seniors, and freshmen (true and redshirt, Meyer's guys), with virtually no junior and sophomore classes. It's why there is no upper-class depth at quarterback, offensive line, linebacker and in the secondary, and why the two-year search still continues for a decent, reliable running back.

Let's take a look at Zook's three recruiting classes, and you decide about his recruiting wizardry. Granted, the first year in 2002 was a hastily-assembled bunch, having less than a month to put a class together when Spurrier abruptly left. In hindsight, it turned out to be a pretty decent group:

Dallas Baker; Nick Brooks; Todd Bunce; Ryan Carter; Taurean Charles; Jemalle Cornelius; Channing Crowder; Brian Crum; Gavin Dickey; Patrick Dosh; Ciatrick Fason; Randy Hand; Steven Harris; Terrence Holmes; Reggie Lewis; Jermaine McCollum; Tremaine McCollum; Ray McDonald; MacKenzie Pierre; Kenneth Tookes; Jimtavis Walker; DeShawn Wynn.

There were only six washouts who never did anything at UF and most were prime contributors, with a few stars (Baker, who was technically a Spurrier recruit, Crowder, Fason and McDonald) and a lot of solid contributors (Cornelius, Crum, Dickey, Hand, Harris, Holmes, Lewis, T. McCollum and Wynn).

The 2003 class was supposed to Zook's shining achievement as a recruiter, a Top 2 or 3 class that he hung his hat on forever. There is no doubt this class has some stars, but there were simply too many guys who contributed little to nothing, including the ill-fated junior college venture, essentially wasting a half-dozen scholarships (save one year from offensive tackle Tavares Washington). Here it is:

Andre Caldwell; Joe Cohen; Johnny Dingle; Earl Everett; Billy Griffin; Anthony Guerrero; Michael Hill; Reynaldo Hill; Eric Holcombe; Chad Jackson; David Kenner; Chris Leak; Howard Lingard; Clint McMillan; Carlton Medder; Justin Midgett; Tranell Morant; Jarvis Moss; Julian Riley; Steve Rissler; Jermaine Thomas; Marcus Thomas; Skyler Thornton; Tavares Washington; Dee Webb; Eric Wilbur.

Again, this was the quintessential no middle-class group, with a lot of star power (Caldwell, Cohen, Everett, Jackson, Leak, Moss, M. Thomas, Webb and Wilbur), way too many washouts (Dingle, Griffin, Guerrero, M. Hill, Holcombe, Kenner, Lingard, Midgett, Morant, Riley, J. Thomas and Thornton) and only a handful of middle-ground guys (R. Hill, McMillan, Medder, Rissler and I guess, Washington). If you're truly going to judge a recruiting class three or four years down the road, then personally, this one gets downgraded from its lofty perch – half the class did absolutely nothing at UF.

Just completing year number three, Zook's final UF recruiting class in 2004 hasn't packed much of a punch. This is where the depth is supposed to come from, a large number of players either starting or pushing for starting jobs. While it's too early to cast aside some players who are still at UF, there have been few potential stars produced and again, way too many players no longer with the program. Here's a look:

Michael Brown; Tate Casey; Branden Daniel; Javier Estopinan; Dawayne Grace; Dane Guthrie; Derrick Harvey; Cornelius Ingram; Kyle Jackson; Tony Joiner; Mike Mangold; Markus Manson; Mike McIntosh; Derrick McPhearson; Drew Miller; Jeremy Mincey; McIntosh Nicolas; Eric Rutledge; Brandon Siler; Jim Tartt; Markell Thompson; Phil Trautwein; Jason Watkins.

Nearly half this class was gone by year three and it was not all a result of a coaching change – Brown, Daniel, Grace, Guthrie, Mangold, McIntosh, McPhearson, Nicholas and of course, Mincey and Thompson who were junior college signees. That's way too much attrition. There are some definite stars – Siler and Miller – some main contributors who've earned starting spots – Casey, Joiner, Tartt and Trautwein – some guys with big upsides – Harvey, Ingram – and five others who've played a role the last two years (Estopinan, Jackson, Manson, Rutledge and Watkins).

There it is, you guys decide about Zook's recruiting. Personally, I wouldn't say it was all that great. It was solid, and did produce a number of stars in one class. But once again, there is a reason why Meyer has been decrying the lack of depth at just about every position, why there is no consistent big-time veteran running back on campus and why so many freshmen (probably a dozen by the time the medical redshirts are used) had to play this year.

Heck, I've taken my shots at Zook over the years and for very personal reasons that I won't get into – no matter how hard some of you may ask – harbor no good tidings for the guy. But since everything is upbeat concerning Florida football, far be it from me to douse the moment. Just figured I'd toss some items out there to chew on while we're handing out the holiday hosannas.

21 comments:

GatorsAreSadLosers said...

Dude, for all the talk...and there is a LOT of it...there is still one thing that baffles me -- why the hell are you still brewing about this? I mean seriously...get a girlfriend. Zook's recruits are starting for Florida...ok, all but one...and Zook's recruits are getting Florida to a national championship. End of story. Zook is pulling some serious tail at Illinois...so what? Are you jealous? Why continue the slander when it is obvious you ARE now in the minority. Or are you just ashamed that you wanted him gone and needing validation for all your rants of how bad he is?
My advice to you: go outside, take a deep breath, and ponder why in God's name you have spent so much time on something you clearly never knew anything about. Because history is proving you wrong. And then go cheer on Florida in the national game...you might even win.
Maybe go to a bar where there are ladies present during the game and see if you can find a new hobby...like the rest of us.

Not Baghead said...

come back next year after another 2 win season tell me how the illini are on the brink of being a winner.

ROFL.

JJ Gator said...

GASL, you too are obviously a Zook apologist. A 2-10 season at Illinois is "kicking some serious tail"? Man, your Kool-aid is either laced with LSD or you were rally bamboozled by the myth that was moRon Zook. Jesus, you can't see the forests for the trees are brainwashed by the Nazis at Gator Country, or bounght into the drivel that the GC "posse" on IlliniBoard was spouting!!!!

ZOOK SUCKS in plain English. Let him bamboozle Aureloius Benn and Juice Williams by blowing it out both sides of his ass - I only hope those two will eventually come to their senses. And if I were Benn, I'd seriously think about de-committing from "Illinoise". This joker's a CHARLATAN, and if you think Zook's a great coach, you're WRONG!!!

"Zook's recruits are getting Florida to a National Championship"? BULLSHIT! It's the coaching of URBAN MEYER that made the difference, jackass.

Zook's shit stinks, but you don't smell it.

Drew said...

Florida fans, do you really need to continue to bash Ron Zook? Had he not come along when he did and drawn your ire, would you have landed Urban Meyer and won a national championship? Given the volatile nature of college football, that's up in the air.

Really, it's poor form to continue to rip your former coach two years after he left while your new coach won the title. There's a fine line between pride in one's program and petty hatred. Some of you have clearly crossed into La-La-Land.

As for Zook's recruiting prowess, I find it interesting that Illinois's recruiting class ranks in the top 25 according to several online sources (#17 at SI.com, #12 at ESPN.com, #22 at FoxSports.com). One would think a two year combined record of 4-19 wouldn't be enough to draw good enough players to warrant such a solid recruiting class. You can call him a charlatan if you like, but that does not bely the fact that he is bringing in good recruits.

My only concern is how Zook will do in close games. Illinois lost too many of those this year because of stupid mistakes. Granted, Illinois started more true freshmen than most would have liked. But when the cupboard is bare (you think Zook left Florida's cupboard bare, try living in the post-Ron Turner era), there isn't much choice.

In the end, Zook is poised to bring Illinois up from the bottom. How high he can bring Illinois is yet to be determined. But I think it's safe to say that it's going to be higher than Illinois has been in a while. It's been one of the sorriest Div-I programs for a long time, and any improvement is welcomed.

But seriously, Gator fans, let it go. If you still feel the need to puff yourselves up by bashing another coach and his program, you've got issues. I wish Florida nothing but the best and wholeheartedly congratulate the program and its fans on a very convincing win in the BCS championship game. Kudos to you.

Now let it go.

Not Baghead said...

Just because Foley made a good decision in hiring Urban Meyer doesn't justify the bad decision he made in hiring Ron Zook. That's like saying Jimmy Carter was actually a good president because his failures led to Ronald Reagan being elected. That's not a very rational argument.

Yes Zook is bringing in more players with more stars next to their names than Illinois is accustomed to gettting but that doesn't mean 1) that they'll pan out (because Zook doesn't seem to care about other factors such as character and grades) or 2) that he'll be able to maximize their talent.

As far as piling on Zook, I will continue to do it as long as he continues with the faulty logic that he didn't get a chance at Florida. His latest statements to ESPN.com are that he would have won the MNC at FLorida if he had been given the chance, perhaps a year earlier. If he can say those ridiculous things then I can challenge them.

It's a free country and if you don't like it then don't visit this blog.

Drew said...

LOL. Methinks someone dislikes rational discourse. I never claimed you were not allowed to voice your opinion. I simply offered my opinion that you are letting your anger with Zook cloud what should be an otherwise joyous occasion for you. If you would like to continue putting words in my mouth, please demonstrate the requisite courtesy I have extended to you and not pull them out of your posterior first. It's leaves a rather putrid taste, wouldn't you agree? Your repeated vitriol is your bane, not mine.

For some reason that is unbeknownst to me, you assert that Zook will be bad for Illinois despite the fact that the program has been in far worse shape than you, as a Gator fan, can possibly comprehend. I defy you to provide adequate explanation as to how Zook can possibly take a bottom-10 program with horrible players and horrible team chemistry, and make it worse.

As for the assertions that Zook doesn't care about character or grades, all I can say is welcome to big-time college athletics. What took you so long?

If you truly believe that grades and character count in college sports that generate large amounts of revenue, then I suggest you cease to remain willfully blind to reality. Given the choice between a poor football team with good character and a good football team with poor character, boosters and other alumni would gladly take the latter. It's not hard to follow the money, but that's what you need to do.

I don't expect Zook to be a choir boy, as that's not how the game is played. Even those who appear to be squeaky-clean are chiefly interested in maintaining the appearance of propriety rather than the execution of it. I'm sorry if that scares you or otherwise threatens your sensibilities, but it's the way of the world. But you can go back to your safe little make-believe world if that suits you.

Not Baghead said...

I'm not rational? You are the one that suggested that I should aplaud a terrible decision because it was followed up by a fantastic one, 3 years later. Logic doesn't work that way.

Secondly you engage in something called a false dichotomy which is a logical fallacy. You create a scenario in which there are only two choices. In this case enjoying victory or denouncing Zook. That somehow because I denounce Zook I am not able to fully enjoy the Gators success.

I can assure that I enjoyed this last season as fully as anyone could, including the championship game which I attended personally. My reporting the facts about Zook doesn't detract from that one bit.

You ask what I know about Illinois football. Admittedly it's not much. But I know a lot about Zook.

The reason Zook will not succeed as coach at Illinois is the same reason he hasn't succeeded as coach at Florida, as defensive coordinator at New Orleans or as a defensive coordinator at Florida before that. And that reason is, for lack of a better word, that Zook is dumb. You can fix a lot of things but you can't fix dumb.

He has talent as a recruiter. Nobody denies that. But recruiting is less than half the job. Do you think Boise State has won all of those games the last few years because of all of the 5-star talent they get or because their coaches have gotten the most from the talent that they do get.

Zook recruited good players to Florida. But Florida is a major football program in a major football state that will land it's fair share of talent. In other words you can't analyze his recruits and say "look he got this player and he got that player" and assume that an another coach wouldn't have been able to recruit any talent at all. So the question is: what was Zook's incremental contribution to recruiting at Florida? Who were the players he landed that nobody else could have landed? How's that for rational discourse?

So let's say Zook has the gift of being able to recruit incremental talent. How many wins does that translate into?

In the case of Florida it didn't translate into any. He had two 5-loss seasons and a 4-loss season that would have been 5 if he had coached the bowl game. That from a team that hadn't lost 5 games in 12 years.

So despite the fact that he brought in talent that was graded by experts as superior to what had been at Florida in the previous years he didn't harness that talent into winning games. In short that talent wasn't enough to overcome his dumb decisions.

So it's history repeating at Illinois. Zook is landing some big name players but so far he has won a total of 4 games in seasons. His tradition of backsliding is proving to be quite uniform.

But even if he can manage to win a few more games my prediction is that he'll never win 6 games in a season at Illinois. That means maybe a bowl appearance in Boise but certainly he'll never challenge for a big 10 championship.

But hey, maybe the other Ron will do like Jeremy Foley and make good decision after a bad one and then you can thank ron zook for bringing in the talent for the next guy.

Buddy, I'll leave you with a piece of advice:

The best indicator of future performance is past performance.

Ron zook is a failure and he'll continue to be a failure. As someone much smarter than me recently said: Zook's top end is probably as a special teams coach and recruiting coordinator. He certainly is an example of the Peter Principle as a head coach.

Good day sir.

Drew said...

Hey, I agree with you that Zook is an idiot. When he first came to Illinois, he did an interview and called the school "ill-ih-noise". What kind of dork gets a job and doesn't even know how to pronounce the company's name?

But, you have to remember that we suffered through Ron Turner, who left us with absolutely nothing and really only cared about the offense. Six wins a year would be a Godsend for us.

If he can move us up, who cares? Six wins is better than two. I'll be happy to use him to advance the program just as much as he's happy to use us to advance himself. Illinois is about the best program he can hope for, so if he can improve the program significantly he'll probably leave for something better. If he can't, he'll get stuck with Illinois State or some other crappy sub-Division I program. Either way, it works out.

Besides, the Big Ten is basically Ohio State, Michigan, and everyone else. The SEC is the best conference year-in and year-out. I'll be happy to just move up to "Better than sucks". If Zook can do it, great. If not, there will be someone else to try.

Not Baghead said...

Drew,

I was going to ask if you were a Gator fan or an illinois fan but you answered that. Also you mentioned the illinoise faux pas that I was thinking as I wrote my last post. I laughing that you mentioned it. Not only that but he wore the same suit when they introduced him at Illinois as he wore when they introduced him at Florida (with a different tie).

A lot of the Gator fans bought into the idea that Spurrier had stopped caring about recruiting (an idea for which there is no evidence) and became enamoured of the idea of recruiting great players.

I'm not minimizing recruiting. It's important but you have to recruit smart just like you have to coach smart. And whether it's because of noble convictions or selfish motives most coaches would prefer to recruit players that won't have trouble with eligibility, grades, etc. Zook didn't really seem to care. Another thing to consider is that a desperate man does desperate things. If Zook doesn't win 4 games next season the pressure is really going to be on.

If he has another terrible season next year his winning percentage for his career will be lower than Ron Turner's and that's with 3 winning seasons at Florida.

I understand your desire to believe. But I'm telling you from personal experience that it's blind belief. A lot of Florida fans thought the same way you did.

Here's what's going to happen, in my opinion. Illinois will lose to teams they have no business losing to. They will also win against teams they have no business winning. These will be games where the players will win in spite of their coaches. Either way it's not going to be the kind of success that you want. When I say he may win 6 games in a season, I see that as the upper limit. That will be his high-water mark.

Here's a promise. I'll still be here at the end of next season. Will you stop back by and give me your thoughts?

Drew said...

Given the way we beat Michigan State on the road this year (a game we had no business winning) and lost close games against Penn State and Wisconsin (games could have won but lost due to stupid mistakes/poor play), I have no doubt Zook will infuriate us. Did you see our punting this year? Zook tried to use a rugby style because our punter was so bad. It backfired horribly and left us all scratching our heads.

But here's the rub: How does one of the worst programs claw its way into respectability? You have to start somewhere. And during Turner's last couple of years, the roster was filled with Div II players. Sure, we had a few decent guys, but there weren't many who could have made it on the roster of a good team. That, and they played completely without heart. You could tell they knew they sucked.

Over the past four years we've only won three Div I games: Indiana, Rutgers, and at Michigan State. I just don't possibly see how Zook could make anything worse. Even a completely discombobulated roster of star players has to be better than a completely discombobulated roster of Div II-quality players.

You and I probably agree that Zook won't bring a national title to Illinois. Shoot, the odds are against him to bring a Big Ten title to Illinois (still not sure how Turner managed one of those). In terms of quality of programs, Zook's ability probably ranges somewhere between Florida and Illinois. He dragged one down and will make one better.

But if Zook can at least make playing at Illinois attractive to recruits, something that Turner failed to do, that's a step forward in my book. When he does eventually leave, the Illinois football program will be in far better shape than when he came here.

The other thing to remember is that the Big Ten is not the SEC. It's a given that Michigan and Ohio State will be good every year. Then there are usually a pair of other teams that are good enough to flirt with the top 25. Beyond that, there are no guarantees. Move the No. 5 SEC team to the Big Ten and it will battle for probably third place. Big Ten football has always been its own animal, one that doesn't do well against teams outside its bounds. Six wins against a Big Ten schedule isn't as daunting as one might think.

I'll bookmark this blog and come back next November to give my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Not Baghead is right-on. In the NCAA, a coach can't be one-dimensional; meaning that he can't possess prowess in only one of two areas he must be equally adept at - coaching AND recruiting - to succeed at this level. This is the reason that coaches like Ty Willingham didn't succeed at Notre Dame, Glen Mason didn't survive at Minnesota, and YES, eventually cost Ron Turner his job at Illinois. You can't have one without the other if you're seeking job security as a coach in Division 1-A college football.

Coaches like Pete Carroll, Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban and Jim Tressel were able to balance both, and ultimately won championships. Urban Meyer helped us win the NC at Florida this past season, and even though Les Miles hasn't yet won one at LSU he can wear the two hats and enjoy a high degree of success.

The point we're trying to make is that Zook falls into the one-dimensional category - sure he may be able to recruit, but our point is that he stops short at the BEING ABLE TO COACH category because of his methods that haven't been effective.

And as long as cyberspace remains an open forum, we'll continue to exercise our right to free speech. 'Nuff said.

Drew said...

I have to say that I'm rather pleased with the season for the Illini so far. Through five games they've played above expectations.

Their only loss came against a good Mizzou team that is now ranked. They easily handled Western Illinois, a Div-I FCS team, as you would expect a decent team to do. Then they went to Syracuse and beat the Orange by 21 in a game that last year's team probably wouldn't have won. After that was a victory over Indiana by two scores. And now we have a win over a ranked Penn State team.

There's no comparison between this year's team and last year's team. Oh, there are too many mistakes to confuse this team with a top-25 squad. (I think they're a top-40 team but not top-25.) There are far fewer mental errors being made than during the past few years but not enough to be a good team. However, there really isn't a game on the schedule where the Illini are completely overmatched except perhaps the game in Columbus.

I'm guessing the predictions of the Illini winning only 2 games this season were a bit off the mark, no? Yep, Zook must be a horrible coach. Or did he just recruit enough talent to negate his ineffective coaching?

Either way, my point that the Illini are far better off under Zook than they were under Ron Turner still stands, and the play on the field backs this up quite well.

Not Baghead said...

Drew,

Let's not go crazy yet. The Big 10 is down this year. Penn State is a team that lost to team that lost to Appalachian State.

With the weak schedule the Illini have this year they should win a few games and they have. We'll see what happens in a tight game when the coaching decisions count.

Drew said...

The point you are missing is that the so-called tight games are in a different class. In the past four or so seasons, games against Western Illinois, Syracuse, and Indiana, would have been close games. Now, the close games are coming against teams like Penn State. We might very well play Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State close as well. In years past that was a laughable prospect.

I'm sure there will be some games this year that make me shake my head and wonder what the hell happened. I have faith in Zook inasmuch as he will recruit great players but will be a less than stellar coach. But to compare that to a less than stellar coach who couldn't recruit talent at all as though they are the same? That's just silly.

I will not predict that Zook can bring a national championship to Illinois. He won't. That mantle is reserved for a select echelon of schools that have the history and/or coaching to bring recruits and/or properly prepare them. Zook isn't that guy.

But again, you are underestimating the importance of bringing top notch recruits to a flagging program. That's where it starts.

Look at the Illinois basketball program for a comparison. Bill Self was a master recruiter, but he has yet to take his superior talent to the pinnacle. It took Bruce Weber to coach Self's recruits to the point where they could compete nationally. But now that Self's progeny are gone, Weber can't bring the talent to Illinois. Weber is a superior X's and O's coach. There's no doubt about that. But he's not the salesman that Self was. And the Illinois basketball program will suffer because of it.

Zook is like Self. He can recruit like nobody's business. But he just isn't a great coach. You're right. The close games will illustrate his weakness as a coach. But the fact remains that his sheer influx of talent has elevated the program to the point where those close games are no longer happeneing against substandard competition. Instead, they're happening against reasonable competition. That's a step up no matter how you look at it. It's a step that would never have happened under Ron Turner. You're just looking at it through Gator-colored glasses.

not Baghead said...

I don't underestimate recruiting. There is no doubt that recruiting is important. Zook will the games when his athletes are clearly superior to those on the opposing team. But the reality is that if you want win a big 10 title, you have to find ways to win when there is no talent gap or when it doesn't favor you. Another thing that remains to be seen is team discipline. This has been a problem for Zook in the past and I am sure it will it rear its ugly head again. A great athlete can't help you if he's suspended or doing time. Zook has been a poor disciplinarian in his short career.

So if you are saying that Zook is nice interim coach for you guys to build up talent until you can bring a grown-up in to take it to the next level, I'll probably agree with that. But there is a definite ceiling with Zook and I don't think it's too much higher than what we have seen. Beat some really bad non-conference teams and beat some really bad conference teams.

We'll see. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Illini beat Wisky next week and then lose to some stiffs. Look at my earlier comment. You'll see that my position is the same as it was then.

Anonymous said...

leave it to Illinois fans to come and try to claim how great their program is now and praise Zook for raising their team to slightly better than their pathetic past has been. Where are Illinois fans when their teams are bad? Oh yeah, they don't say jack. Possibly the worst football fans in the Big Ten, and I think few would argue with me on that (except for Illinois scrubs). They're the type of fans who have 10 straight god-awful seasons and then have one fairly good one and immediately put on the blinders and act as though their program is one of the most storied and greatest in all the land. Pathetic. This guy puts up tons of information about how Zook is simply NOT a good coach, having seen it with his OWN eyes, and you come and make excuses about his recruiting. Zook is proving every one of his points at Illinois, getting a couple hyped up guys with little middle ground guys. Juice can't hit the broad side of a barn, where's the quarterback development? Zook turned down two guaranteed 4th downs against Iowa... why?? Oh yeah, he's an idiot and cost them the game... another point this guy has made. He can't win the close ones. He makes no adjustments at half time and his offense is so pathetically one-dimensional Iowa had no problem stopping it because they CAN stop the run. I suggest you all listen to the man, sit back, and realize your program still sucks and Zook is not the answer. Have fun with his new extension he just got, you'll be in for some frustrating seasons ahead. Not that you'll seem to care anyway since Illinois fans don't talk unless they win something... nice ILL-INI chant I think I heard it 25 times at one of your games... get a new one. He might get you some big wins and some flashy names on preseason lists, but he'll never get your shoddy program anywhere above where it has been. Go back to your basketball team... Oh wait... that sucks too.

Drew said...

Well, it certainly looks like someone piddled in Mr. anonymous's Cheerios. LOL

Perhaps he can enlighten us as to what options were available to Illinois at the time of Zook's hiring. I don't seem to recall the likes of Pete Carroll, Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, or Jim Tressel beating a path to our door.

With extremely limited options, in part due to the poor status of the program as well as the lack of a winning tradition, the odds of landing a top flight coach, even an up and coming one, were longer than my... (well, they were pretty long).

not baghead said...

That argument is ridiculous. Who was Steve Spurrier when he was hired by Duke? Who was Nick Saban when MSU hired him? Who was Urban Meyer when Bowling Green took a shot with him. If you think Zook is the only person that could have filled the position you have zooking blinders on. Jim Tressel was coaching in 1AA when OSU hired him. This is all a diversion anyway from the real debate which how coach Zook gets in the way of recruiter Zook. His idiotic decisions will always doom Illinois to losses like the one against Iowa.

Drew said...

Ridiculous, you say? I notice that neither Spurrier, Saban, or Meyer are with Duke, MSU, or Bowling Green anymore (or were there for very long). I'm guessing you think it's a good idea for a program that wants to take the next step to willingly seek a coach who views it as nothing more than a stepping stone, seeing how it's worked out so well for those three powerhouses? ;)

Not to mention Tressel was hardly an unknown when he began coaching Div I-A, having complied a rather impressive resume at Youngstown State.

I realize you more than likely know nothing of how Illinois was burned in the past decade by basketball coaches who used it as a path to future glory. That's the biggest reason why the Illinois AD went for Bruce Weber and Ron Zook. He specifically wanted to avoid having Illinois become a perennial stepping stone school.

Of course, none of this changes the fact that you remarkably still have vitriol for Zook. That can't be good for your health, but I suppose we all have our pet peeves. Let's also not forget that you were the one who predicted "another 2 win season" for Illinois, only to backpedal with rationalizations about schedule strength. You made the prediction, and you really should stand behind it instead of crawfishing like you have.

not baghead said...

Drew,

First of all my health is fine. You don't need to lose sleep over it. Zook continues with his jabs at Florida so I'll continue with mine at him.

You don't want your school to be a stepping stone. So you want to go from also-ran to national power in one fell swoop. That's highly unlikely. You don't want to be a stepping stone but want to use Zook as one. I mean let's face it, if Zook has a couple of 8-4 years and blows games like the ones to Iowa, he'll get canned and someone else who can actually coach will get hired.

Teams can improve over time. Programs are built up by making good hires. The University of Miami, a School with far fewer resources and students than Illinois has won national championships with 4 different coaches.

For any job there has to be more than one qualified candidate. To assume otherwise strikes me as naive.

As for my prediction, I'm not nostradamus. I said he wouldn't win more than 6 games. He may prove me wrong on that (though he hasn't done it yet). But he continues to make bonehead decisions that cost his team the games.

I think what's worrying you is that you know in your heart that I'm right. Why else would you keep coming here to see what I have written?

And you know it's not just me. Just look at those game threads on the message boards. Everyone is seeing the same things I see.

Zook doesn't enter a game believing he can win. Did you see his quotes about being installed as a favorite against Wisconsin? He worries too much about the players he might have and not enough about the ones he does have.

The sad fact is that with Mendenhall and Benn Illinois could have won the Big 10 this year and Zook fumbled that away in a Zookian fashion.

Don't praise 5-3 when you could be 7-1.

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