Beckman hopes to build spring momentum at Illinois - Fox 2 News Headlines

Beckman hopes to build spring momentum at Illinois

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By DAVID MERCER
Associated Press


   CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- As they get ready to wrap up spring football, Illinois players are wearing wrist bands bearing the acronym WIN -- Whatever Is Needed.
 
   "It's a philosophy of this football team," coach Tim Beckman told reporters Tuesday as he talked about Friday night's spring game.
 
   The list of what's needed could be a long one for Beckman and the Illini.
 
   The Illini finished last season 2-10 (0-8 in the Big Ten), closing with nine straight losses. They scored 12 points per game over that run and gave up 37.
 
   The team has lost much of the best of its defense from last season -- NFL prospects like defensive end Michael Buchanan, defensive back Terry Hawthorne and defensive tackle Akeem Spence.
 
   If the team had to play a game, almost half the first-team defense would be in its first season at Illinois, Beckman said.
 
   "Last year at this time they were getting ready for baseball season and prom, as I like to say," he said.
 
   And the offense is starting over under new coordinator Bill Cubit, who inherited a relatively thin and inexperienced group of receivers. But Beckman said he's already seen evidence that the team has achieved one of his big goals for the spring.
 
   "First was to become a mentally tougher football team, and to play four quarters of football," he said. "I've seen that happen."
 
   The defense, Beckman said, will be without one likely starter on Friday, linebacker Jonathan Brown. Brown is a leader of the defense and an anchor along with Mason Monheim of a linebacker corps that could be one of the team's few real strengths going into next fall. Brown hasn't practiced this spring after spending a lot of last fall banged up.
 
   Senior receiver Steve Hull, who has moved from safety back to the position where he started his college career, also will miss the game with a hamstring injury.
 
   Spring games in football-crazy college towns, of course, can draw tens of thousands of fans who might just as soon skip summer and head straight into fall.
 
   Illinois isn't quite that, but Beckman, like any coach, hopes to use Friday's game to start building some momentum around his struggling program.
 
   A half dozen former Illini players such as recent defensive back Tavon Wilson and John Wright Sr., a receiver from the 1960s, will serve as honorary coaches for the game.
 
   A year ago in Beckman's first appearance on the Illinois sideline, the game drew a couple thousand fans on a drizzly Saturday afternoon when the temperature was close to 60 degrees.
 
   This time the Illini will line up on Friday night for an 8 p.m. start. The forecast calls for temperatures to drop into the low 30s. The start allows the game to be televised live by the Big Ten network, Beckman said.   
 
   "We're kicking off on a Friday night, maybe to be a little different, playing under the lights," Beckman said, adding that he would have liked to kick off just a little earlier but needed the late start for live TV coverage.
 
   "We hope to have a great turnout," he added.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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