Chicago Sun-Times
With Sun-Times sports reporter Herb Gould

January 2012 Archives

Tim Banks, who was co-defensive coordinator at Cincinnati the last two seasons, has been hired as Illinois' new defensive coordinator, the school announced Wednesday.
``Tim Banks is a great fit,'' new Illinois coach Tim Beckman said. ``He led an outstanding defense at Central Michigan [in 2007-09] and made a great improvement at Cincinnati this past season. Tim and I worked together at Bowling Green and I consider him one of the brightest young coaches in the nation. Tim will run a very aggressive defensive system that will work very well with our personnel.''
Translation: Even though Whitney Mercilus, the nation's sack leader, won't return, Banks intends to keep looking for sack opportunities. And Illinois' returning personnel are well-suited to that approach.
Under Banks, Cincinnati, which ranked 39th nationally in run defense in 2010, improved to No. 6 last fall. Cincinnati led the nation in tackles for loss in 2011 after ranking 38th in 2010. It also ranked No. 2 in sacks last fall, up from No. 38 in 2010. 
In 2009, Banks' defense at Central Michigan led the Mid-American Conference in scoring defense, ranked second in rushing defense, third in pass efficiency defense and fourth in total defense. The Chippewas also led the MAC in rushing defense in both 2007 and 2008, and in sacks in 2008.
The hiring of Banks completes Beckman's staff. Here are the assistants and their assignments:
Tim Banks - defensive coordinator/safeties
Billy Gonzales - co-offensive coordinator/receivers
Chris Beatty - co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Luke Butkus - offensive line
Steve Clinkscale - cornerbacks
Keith Gilmore - defensive line
Alex Golesh - tight ends/specialists/recruiting coordinator
Tim Salem - running backs/special teams coordinator
Mike Ward - linebackers

Illini coach Tim Beckman announced the hiring of three more assistants Friday and designated roles for all of his offensive assistants. The defensive roles have not been announced yet, apparently because Beckman is still trying to hire his defensive coordinator.

Billy Gonzales, Tim Salem and Steve Clinkscale are the newly named assistants. Although Gonzales has been designated as co-offensive coordinator along with Chris Beatty, Gonzales is expected to have the senior role.

Salem, whose, father Joe, was head coach at Minnesota in 1979-83, will be running backs coach and special teams coordinator. Clinkscale will be a defensive assistant.

Salem has been at Central Florida the last eight years, including the last three as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. 

Clinkscale has been cornerbacks coach at Toledo the last three years, and also was the Rockets' special teams coordinator the last two years.

Here's the full official release. . . 

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois head coach Tim Beckman announced the hiring of Steve Clinkscale, Billy Gonzales and Tim Salem as assistant football coaches Friday. Gonzales will serve as co-offensive coordinator and Salem will be the Illini's running backs coach and special teams coordinator.
 Assignments for the previously announced offensive assistant coaches have been decided,with Chris Beatty serving as co-offensive coordinator, Luke Butkus coaching the offensive line and Alex Golesh guiding the tight ends and specialists, while also serving as recruiting coordinator. Defensive coaching assignments will be announced at a later date.
 "Steve brings a great work ethic to the Illini football program," Beckman said. "He's a terrific mentor of young men and an excellent young coach who pushes his players to be the best they can be. 'Clink' worked with our secondary at Toledo, coached an All-MAC player in Dez Marrow and was in charge of coaching All-American punt and kickoff returner Eric Page.
 "Billy Gonzales has been a part of two national championship teams and coached in another national championship game earlier this week, and he brings a great reputation to the Fighting Illini. He has coached in four BCS games and has been associated with great success wherever he has been. I worked with Billy at Bowling Green on Urban Meyer'sstaff. He is an outstanding coach and a terrific person. He and Chris Beatty will do a great job running our offense.
 "Tim Salem is a very experienced coach who has a great reputation around the nation. He has experience as an offensivecoordinator and did an exceptional job in coordinating special teams at Central Florida. He has a Big Ten background as a coach at Ohio State and Purdue, as well as a quarterback at Minnesota, where his father, Joe, coached. Tim also has terrific recruiting contacts in several areas of the nation."
 Clinkscale helped Toledo's defense become a national leader in takeaways as the Rockets ranked fifth in turnovers gained in 2010 and 16th in 2011. UT also ranked third in the nation in turnover margin and 29th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in third-down defense in 2011. In 2010, Toledo grabbed 20 interceptions, the eighth-most in the country. On special teams, Clinkscale guided the Rockets to a No. 17 national ranking in punt return average in 2011 and a No. 11 ranking in kickoff return average. He also mentored All-American return man Eric Page, who returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in 2010 and added a kickoff return and a punt return for touchdowns in 2011.
 Gonzales most recently served as passing-game coordinator and receivers coach at LSU, helping the Tigers to a runner-up finish in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 9. He spent two years at LSU after coaching receivers for five years at Florida, where he helped the Gators to a pair of national championships in 2006 and 2008. In 2011, the Tigers ranked 17th in the nation in scoring offense (35.71 points per game) and 24th in passing efficiency (147.53) as quarterbackJarrett Lee led the SEC with a 152.04 passer rating. Under Gonzales' tutelage, the LSU passing game completed 62.0 percent of its attempts for 2,135 yardswhile accounting for 21 touchdowns with only five interceptions in 2011. In his five seasons in Gainesville, Gonzales sent seven players to the NFL Draft, including 2009 first-round selection Percy Harvin and Chad Jackson, a second-round pick in 2007. He coached alongside Urban Meyer at Florida, Utah and Bowling Green, coaching receivers at Utah and Bowling Green.
 Salem comes to Illinois after eight years at Central Florida, including the last three as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach. Prior to that, he was UCF's offensive coordinator for five years. Under Salem's guidance, the Knights have ranked in the top five nationally in kickoff return average, standing third in 2011 and first in 2010. UCF also ranked in the top 10 nationally in kickoff return defense the past three seasons, finishing ninth in 2011, third in 2010 and 10th in 2009. Salem also oversaw some of the most prolific offenses in Knight history as offensive coordinator from 2004-08, guiding UCF to a 10-win season, a Conference USA championship and a berth in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in 2007. That year, he helped running back Kevin Smith earn consensus All-America honors by rushing for 2,567 yards - the second-most yards in a season in FBS history - and a national-best 29 rushing touchdowns. Salem helped the Knights to a C-USA East Division title and berth in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl in 2005 as Smith was named the league's freshman of the year and receivers Brandon Marshall and Mike Sims-Walker combined for 2,050 yards and 20 touchdowns. Prior to his time at UCF, Salem also served as offensive coordinator at Eastern Michigan (2003), Purdue (1991-96) and Phoenix College (1987-88). He was quarterbacks coach at Ohio State from 1997-2000.

LSU receivers coach/passing game coordinator Billy Gonzales, who worked with new Illinois coach Tim Beckman on Urban Meyer's staff at Bowling Green, has agreed to become offensive coordinator at Illinois, multiple sources confirmed Wednesday.
``This is a great promotion for Billy,'' LSU coach Les Miles said. ``Billy will do a great job as an offensive coordinator. This is a tremendous opportunity for him and his family.''
This will be the first opportunity for Gonzales, 40, who's considered an excellent recruiter, to work as an offensive coordinator.
Gonzales also worked for Meyer in 2003-04 at Utah, where he was receivers coach and special teams coordinator, and in 2005-09 at Florida, where he was recruiting coordinator and receivers coach.
A Colorado native who was a wide receiver at Colorado State, Gonzales began his coaching career at MacMurray College in Downstate Jacksonville in 1994.

Former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert, who now hosts a New Orleans sports-talk show, carved up LSU coach Les Miles for not changing quarterbacks after LSU was shut out by Alabama.
Hebert's rant. which was the first question at LSU's post-game news conference, was pretty strong stuff. The kind of thing only a former player could pull off. Hebert's son, T-Bob, is a Tigers center. Guess it's a good thing he's a senior.
Here's the transcript. . . 

HEBERT: Coach Miles, did you ever consider bringing in Jarrett Lee, considering that you weren't taking any chances downfield?  Now, I know Alabama's defense is dominant.  But, come on, that's ridiculous, five first downs. I mean, so it's almost an approach, I'll tell from you the fans' standpoint, that how can you not maybe push the ball down the field and bring in Jarrett Lee?  So what if you get a pick six?  It seems like the game plan, that y'all not pushing the ball down the field, considering it's like a Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham, Jr.  I know the pass rush of Alabama, but there's no reason why--five first downs?? You have a great defense, LSU is a great defense, but that's ridiculous. 
THE MODERATOR:  Do you have a question? 

Q.  That's the question.  Do you think you should have pushed the football more down field?
COACH MILES:  I think if you watch our calls that we did throw the football down the field.  We didn't necessarily get the football down the field. 
And I can tell you that the pass rush?? we did consider Jarrett Lee.  But we felt like with the pass rush that we were getting that we needed a guy that could move the seat and not sustain that pass rush.

Out with the old, in with the new. . . 
BOWLED OVER AGAIN: Michigan's overtime victory vs. Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl gave the Big Ten a 4-6 mark this bowl season. It's the eighth time in nine years the league has not had a winning post-season record.
One explanation: Because the Big Ten has had an at-large BCS team eight times over that span, its teams have been moving up, and often facing more difficult matchups. That's especially true at the high end. The league is 1-9 in  Jan. 1 bowls (played on Jan. 2 as an NFL courtesy this year) the last two years, including a 1-4 mark this season, with Michigan State posting the lone victory, an overtime win vs. Georgia.
The most disappointing setback was probably Northwestern's 33-22 loss to interim-coached Texas A&M. It was the ninth straight bowl loss for NU, which hasn't won a post-season game since the 1948 (season) Rose Bowl
The only Big Ten team, surprisingly, that has emerged smiling from the last two bowl seasons? Illinois, which followed up last year's rout of Baylor and 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III with a 20-14 defeat of UCLA in this year's Kraft  Fight Hunger Bowl. It was a much-needed bit of healing for a program changing coaches after ending its season with a six-game losing streak.
MERCILUS GOOD TO GO: Smart move by Whitney Mercilus to declare for the NFL draft. After leading the nation in sacks, Illinois' junior defensive end can't make himself more attractive. The loss will hurt, but Illinois has some good candidates to become formidable defenders, including Akeem Spence and Michael Buchanan.
SAM THE MAN: Of all the little items that have been surfacing on the college beat the last few days, one that grabs my attention is the nagging ankle injury of Illini point guard Sam Maniscalco.
The fifth-year transfer from Bradley has been a great addition at Illinois--a leader and a competitor as well as a steadying influence and a productive clutch scorer. Those are all especially important commodoties to a young Illini team.
Maniscalco, whose pre-season playing time was shortened because of his surgically repaired ankle, has limitations even when the ankle isn't bothering him. He's going to have issues against athletic guards.
But with all that pre-season chatter about Illinois' depth failing to materialize, the Illini's path to a quality season would become much more difficult if Maniscalco's ankle prevents him from continuing the important all-around contribution he's been making so far.
HOOPS HICCUPS: In its second week, the Big Ten basketball race looks a lot murkier than it did before the games began.
But Ohio State is still the team to beat. And Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin are still the next tier.
Wisconsin's little lull--back-to-back home losses--ought to be a concern to Cheeseheads. But the Badgers are young in places, especially upfront. And while Bo Ryan is a maestro, some of his previous teams have hit sour notes early in the Big Ten season, then bounced back well.
Indiana continues to be the most surprising Big Ten squad, especially considering that IU has been over-achieving without Maurice Creek, a potential leading scorer who went down with another season-ending injury.
NU'S ONE-TWO PUNCH: I knew Bill Carmody had a great place to start with John Shurna (18.6 points a game ) and Drew Crawford (17.9). Didn't know they'd be the top two scorers in the Big Ten, though. 

After just 24 hours on the job, Jon Tenuta has changed his mind. He won't join Tim Beckman's new Illinois staff, where he was expected to be defensive coordinator. He will remain at at North Carolina State for family reasons, the 31-year veteran assistant said Wednesday.
 ``Illinois is a great program and I think the world of Tim Beckman,'' Tenuta said in a statement released by Illinois. ``I've known Beck for 20 years and I have no doubt that with the staff he is putting together, he will have Illinois at the top of the Big Ten very soon.
``However, my family comes first and I may have made a decision without fully thinking through the situation with them. My son is a senior in high school and has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at N.C. State, and it is something I just don't want to miss. I was one of the first people to contact Beck and congratulate him on the opportunity at Illinois, and I wish him and the Illini nothing but the best.''
Tenuta's change of heart leaves Beckman with four unfilled slots on his staff.
The odd part about this is that Beckman said at various times last month that he either had his whole staff, or all but one assistant, lined up. He was merely waiting for the new staffers to finish up the bowl games of their current teams, he said. 
Luke Butkus, who will be offensive line coach, and Chris Beatty, who also will be on the offensive staff, were announced Tuesday along with Tenuta.
Butkus, the nephew of Dick Butkus, is young for an offensive-line coach, but has paid his dues. A three-year starter who finished his career at Illinois in the Sugar Bowl in 2001, he has been a Seatlle Seahawks quality control assistant the last two years. Before that, he was an assistant offensive line coach for three seasons with the Bears.
Beatty is leaving Vanderbilt, where he was wide receivers coach and offensive recruiting coordinator this season. Beatty also has been an assistant at West Virginia (2008-2010), Northern Illinois (2007) and Hampton (2006).
Previously named to Beckman's staff: Keith Gilmore, defensive line coach, who's staying on at Illinois; and two of Beckman's former Toledo assistants, Alex Golesh, who will be an offensive assistant and recruiting coordinator, and longtime Beckman associate Mike Ward, who will be a defensive assistant.
Beckman is leaving the specific position/coordinator assignments of assistants open until he has his whole staff assembled.

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