SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 31: The Illinois Fighting Illini celebrate with the trophy after they beat the UCLA Bruins in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on December 31, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Will a new coaching staff and a tough division, the Illinios Fighting Illini look to build on their early 2011 success heading into the 2012 season.
The Illinois Fighting Illini finished the 2011 college football reguale season with an 0-6 stretch that undid their undefeated start to the season and led to the firing of head coach Ron Zook. Now, with former Toledo Rockets coach Tim Beckman taking his place last December, the team hopes to build on the 2011 Kraft Bowl win and return to their winning ways.
Stewart Mandel of the SI.com suggests the regime change in Illinois will be the biggest question mark heading into the 2012 NCAA football season:
Illinois: Is Beckman the right man for the Illini?
Answering that will admittedly take longer than one spring. Still, the Illini's new coach, who spent the past three seasons at Toledo, is a bit of an enigma. He didn't come in and set the Big Ten on fire like Meyer or Hoke. He has a defensive background, but his Toledo teams were known for their prolific offenses. In Champaign, Beckman inherits talented junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, but faces an immediate challenge upgrading Illinois' rushing attack. Perhaps rising sophomore tailback Donovonn Young will benefit from Beckman's spread attack...
Illini fans will get their first look at the upcoming team on April 4th, when the team hosts their annual Orange and Blue Spring Game at Memorial Stadium.
For more, keep tabs on SB Nation Chicago and SB Nation's NCAA football page. And for in-depth analysis and commentary on the Fighting Illini, check out Hail to the Orange, SB Nation's Illinois Fighting Illini blog.