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Will the Real Ron Zook, Please Stand Up

By Jonah Puls

A team that fails to be successful; a fan base waiting and waiting to become competitive team again; coaches being cleared out like they haven’t won a game in years; an athletic director and head coach being put under constant scrutiny; and a program starting to lose more faith week after week.

These are the characteristics that reveal what the Illinois football program has become after failing two years in a row following a Rose Bowl appearance in 2008.

During the 2007-2008 season, Ron Zook and the Illinois football program discovered that the talent it was bringing in could result in endless possibilities.

Juice Williams began to prove doubters wrong and show why he was such a highly touted recruit. He was a main reason Illinois came out of the season with a record of 9-4, which included a victory over top-ranked Ohio State in Columbus and its first appearance in the Rose Bowl since 1984.

Arrelious Benn, who was a freshman at the time, led the Illini in receiving with 676 yards on 54 receptions. He was also named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American.

The defense was lead by First-Team All-Big Ten linebacker J Leman. He led the teams in tackles with 10.3 per game and dominated with 12 tackles in Illinois’ upset of the Buckeyes.

These were just three of the many players that were a part of a team that made history for the Illinois.

Once that season was in the books, primetime recruits started looking at Illinois, getting excited about the possibilities that it held for them.

What followed for the Illini was something that no one saw coming.

Just a year after a Rose Bowl appearance, Illinois failed to make any bowl appearance at all with a record of 5-7.

With three games left, they had a record of 5-4, but three losses in a row to Western Michigan, Ohio State, and Northwestern prevented Illinois from reaching a bowl game for the second consecutive year.

Still, Illinois was able to bring in a very strong recruiting class led by Nathan Scheelhassee and Terry Hawthorne.

But, recruiting meant nothing if Zook was unable to coach once the team went onto the field.

Zook, who was fired from Florida in 2004, has been heavily criticized for his poor development in talent brought in and is currently being put on the “hot seat.”

It was proven again the in 2008-2009 season that maybe the 2007 season was just a fluke.

Illinois yet again failed to make a bowl game and compiled a record of 3-9, which included a heart-breaking 53-52 loss to Fresno State in the season finale.

Juice Williams had one of the worst years of his career. He was sat multiple times and replaced by either Eddie McGee or Jacob Charest.

Along with the failure of Williams, Benn was injured in the season opener against Missouri, which resulted in a poor season where he was thought of as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate.

The season costed Illinois some of their highest priority recruits last year: Kyle Prater (USC), Corey Cooper (Nebraska), and C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa).

Illinois then realized they had to make some changes within their coaching staff, and they made some big moves, but not what most fans were looking for.

Instead of firing Ron Zook, they fired offensive coordinator Mike Schultz, quarterbacks coach Kurt Beathard, wide receivers coach Jim Pry, and special teams coach Mike Woodford. Co-Defensive coordinators Dan Disch and Curt Mallory were allowed to stay as coaches for Illinois, but they were demoted to position coaches.

Illinois has now filled some of the vacancies with experienced, highly thought of coaches. Paul Petrino has taken the offensive coordinator position; Vic Koenning has taken the defensive coordinator position; and Chip Long has taken the TE coaching position.

The biggest change will be with coach Petrino. He brings a whole new style of offense to the Illini: pro-style.

Instead of being in the shotgun most of the time, the starting QB—who is presumed to be Nathan Scheelhaase—will be under-center primarily.

Scheelhaase is a 6’2, 190 pound dual-threat quarterback. He beat out Jacob Charest and Chandler Whitmer for the starting job during spring practices earlier this year.

Koenning brings the type of mentality to the team that has not been seen for quite some time. The former Kansas State co-defensive coordinator loves on-field enthusiasm but will not accept it to go over the line.

During spring practice safety Trevon Bellamy had a big hit on his teammate and immediately began to celebrate. He was not ready in time for the next play, and Koenning quickly got on him and addressed the incident to the media as well.

“They’re not in the NFL. We don’t need to do all that stuff. One time, it was a two-minute drill. Well, you’re over there celebrating and they’re lined up, ready to go. That’s not real smart,” he said.

“College football is supposed to be wholesome and not have all that celebration stuff. We’re not going to do that. That shows no class. I know Coach (Ron) Zook doesn’t want it and I know the people of Illinois don’t want it, and I guarantee you that I don’t want it. We’re not going to do it.”

Now that Zook and athletic director Ron Guenthner have a refurbished staff, a new QB, and an arrow pointed straight at their head, it’s time for them to step up. And with the new coaches changing up schemes, a bowl appearance will be difficult for Illinois, unless the players can adapt quick enough.

But if the Illini cannot make a bowl game next year, it seems very likely that Ron Zook will be fired.

Let’s take a look at their schedule and my predictions for each game:

@Missouri (St. Louis)-L

Southern Illinois-W

Northern Illinois-W

Ohio State-L

@Penn State-L

@Michigan State-L






@Fresno State-W

As I looked over the schedule, this is what I have come up with.

Looking over the schedule, though, I can see them going anywhere from 2-10 to 8-4.

This season for Illinois may be one of the most interesting ones we have ever seen, because nobody knows what to truly expect.

But I can see this season turning out two ways:

1) The Illini are able to adapt quickly to the offense and win the games they are supposed to, also pulling off an upset or two, which lands them a bowl appearance.

2) The season becomes a nightmare. There will be no team chemistry, no leadership, and no urgency to win. Coach Ron Zook then gets fired.

Illinois has been on roller coaster the past couple years.

It’s Zook and Guenther’s job to get it back on track before it derails.

NCAA Probes Making Their Rounds. This time they land on Howards Rock

By Jonah Puls

According to Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips, a NCAA official was on campus this week to talk with two Clemson college football players.

Phillips would not reveal the athletes names, but he did say that Clemson is fully cooperating with the officials and their demands, and Clemson have nothing to worry about.

"We do not have reason for concern," Phillips said.

A source familiar with the situation tells the Associated Press that the Clemson interrogation is not linked to the improper contact with agents at other schools. The person also said he spoke of the inconspicuousness because the interrogation is considered confidential.

However, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney did say that if the meetings brought out proof that one of his players broke the rules regarding agent contact, he would not hesitate disciplining them, because his players are well educated on the subject.

"You can't legislate integrity," Swinney said. "People are still going to do things wrong. It sounds like the NCAA is trying to send a real strong message. I think it's a good thing."

The NCAA is currently investigating Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia in possibly violating rules at a party in Miami.

UPDATE: Bryce Brown Saga Continues

By Jonah Puls

Tennessee running back Bryce Brown—a former highly touted recruit—asked head coach Derek Dooley for a release from his scholarship said Brown’s father, Arthur Brown, on Friday.

More specifically, it was for him to transfer to Kansas State, where his brother will be playing, but Dooley said on Friday that he would not release Brown from his scholarship.

"I have a lot of respect for Bryce as a person and a player," Dooley said. "This is a professional decision, not a personal one."

Dooley said he makes his decisions on these situations based on three things: what the player's personal investment was into the program, what harm the player's departure would cause the program, and how the player handled the situation as a person.

"I have an obligation to protect the program," said Dooley. "Bryce can still go to Kansas State but I'm not releasing him."

Arthur Brown ratified that Bryce did asked coach Dooley for his release via a text message on Tuesday. He also said he was upset with Bryce for not meeting face-to-face with Dooley earlier in the week, which he had insisted.

But Arthur also mentioned that Bryce did go and speak with Dooley on Saturday, contradicting to earlier reports.

"Bryce met with Coach Dooley on Saturday for about 30 minutes and Dooley asked him not to tell anyone they talked," Arthur Brown said. "I'm really not sure why."

Arthur said that he talked to coach Dooley on several occasions before spring practices started, requesting his son’s release from his scholarship.

Yet, Dooley discarded Arthur’s demands, and Bryce missed all of spring practices, putting himself under heavy criticism.

"I've tried to cooperate with Coach Dooley's request not to divulge information in the media," Arthur Brown said. "But I have told Coach Dooley since April, every time we've talked, that we want Bryce taken out of Tennessee. This is our family decision."

Arthur did acknowledge that they have requested the NCAA’s help.

"We can request an appeal and a hearing," he said before the release was denied. "They have to give us a letter rejecting our request for release.

"All we want is a release," he added. "I can't imagine any reason why they shouldn't. I once asked Coach [Lane] Kiffin [who signed Brown], 'If Bryce decided he wanted to leave, would you release him?' And he said, 'Yes, I'd do that.'"

What's Next for Bryce Brown?

By Jonah Puls

Tennessee running back Bryce Brown, who was involved in a controversy during his recruiting process, has told Tennessee he will be transferring via a text message.

“Bryce left town without a face-to-face request (with Dooley) for a transfer,” a school official told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “There’s still no news on where he wants to go.”

This is not surprising news to Tennessee fans; Brown announced in March that he would likely transfer but would remain enrolled at Tennessee for the rest of the spring semester.

Brown missed out on the remaining spring practices and it was likely he would not play much in the upcoming season. But coach Derek Dooley said he would welcome Brown back, although it seemed very doubtful.

“I said (earlier) that I was open to Bryce coming back on the condition that he wanted to unpack his bags and put his heart into this program,” Dooley said Tuesday. “I fully expect Bryce not to be on our team.”

Brown told Dooley in March that the main reasons he chose to transfer was that he was dealing with family and personal issues.

Last season it was unknown whether Brown would be eligible to play or not for the Volunteers. The NCAA was forced to look into some of the fundraising Brown accepted in high school to visit college campuses.

No evidence was found to support the accusation, so neither Brown or the university was punished.

In the 2009 recruiting class, Brown was the No. 1 ranked RB by Scout and Rivals and the No. 2 ranked RB by ESPN.

He went onto have an average season at Tennessee. He had 460 yards and 3 touchdowns but dealt with injuries and a breakout season from senior running back Montario Hardesty.

Brown is yet to receive his release forms from Tennessee, but once he does, the most likely spot for Brown to land is Kansas State, where his brother Arthur Brown Jr. announced he will be playing next season as well.

Another Error by Kiffin

By Jonah Puls

As if the state of Tennessee wasn’t mad enough at Lane Kiffin; he has made another move that has the state furious.

On Saturday, it was announced that the USC Trojans would be hiring Tennessee Titans RB coach Kennedy Pola.

Two days later, Tennessee Football Inc., the company that owns the Titans, chose to file a lawsuit against both Kiffin and the university.

The lawsuit claims that Kiffin violated Pola’s contract, which requires that he have written permission to discuss a job with anyone other than the Titans. It also claims that USC was aware of the details within his contract but chose to avoid them anyways.

Kiffin, who already has had three minor recruiting infractions, has had a roller-coaster career as a head coach.

His first heading coaching job was with the Oakland Raiders in 2007-2008. He compiled a record of 4-12 and was later fired by owner Al Davis.

In 2009, he accepted a job as the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, where he led them to a record of 7-6, which included a 23-point loss to Virginia Tech in the Chick-Fill-A-Bowl.

Kiffin then resigned as the Volunteers head coach one month before National Signing Day to become the head coach of the USC Trojans, where he has already gotten himself in trouble.

Sadly for USC, this news has to come at a moment where its university is taking a major hit.

Not long after the 2009-2010 season, head coach Pete Carroll landed a coaching job with the Seahawks.

Several months later, at the beginning of June, it was announced that USC was found guilty on giving improper benefits to Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. The punishments include a two-year bowl ban, four years' probation, loss of 20 or more scholarships, and forfeits of an entire year's games during the 2004-2005 season, which included a BCS title game victory.

Now, a college which is known primarily for their football program will have a few rough years ahead of them as it tries to rebuild a tarnished image.

Masoli now MISSoli?

By Jonah Puls

According to ESPN's Joe Schad, Jeremiah Masoli will be headed to Ole Miss.

The news that began filtering through sources on Monday was that the former Oregon quarterback reportedly sent Ole Miss his scholarship release forms from Oregon.

On the following day, Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone met with the Rebels football coach Houston Nutt to have a discussion about the possibility of allowing Masoli to be a part of the football program.

Masoli, 21, was released from the university on June 9 after getting caught with a small amount of marijuana and driving on a suspended license. Before this incident occurred, he was already suspended from the 2010-2011 season by Oregon head coach Chip Kelly after getting arrested for theft.

Masoli came into Oregon as the fifth string quarterback but quickly moved his way up the rankings, landing a starting spot going into the 2008-2009 season.

In the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 campaigns combined, he started 26 games and had a record of 20-6.

During his venture at Oregon, he threw for a total of 3,891 yards and 28 touchdowns. He is Oregon’s all-time rushing leader among quarterbacks with 1,386 yards on the ground, and is ninth on the career total offense list with 5, 277 yards.

Ole Miss has many questions at the QB position heading into next season after Jevan Snead chose to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. The Rebels currently have to quarterbacks under scholarship, Nathan Stanley and Randall Mackey

Masoli has one year of eligibility left, and now that he has completed his undergraduate degree at Oregon, he can transfer to Ole Miss and will be allowed to play immediately this upcoming season.

Mathematically Correct

By Jonah Puls

The Pac-10 has already made some big moves this year, and now they can add another chapter onto their résumé.

On Tuesday, Larry Scott—who's almost in his second year as the Pac-10 Commissioner—made an announcement that will forever change the image of the conference

The Pac-10 will soon be known as the Pac-12.

"We will be mathematically correct going forward," Scott—who will soon be going into second year as the Pac-10 Commissioner—said Monday at a news conference.

The Pac-10, who added Colorado and Utah, has already made a new logo and plans to have the two additions in conference action by 2012.

One of the reasons the Pac-10 chose to expand their conference was due to that fact that they felt they were not getting the attention they deserved.

The most well known conference west of the Rockies went from a 10-team conference to almost 16, but Dan Beebe was able to keep the Big 12 together when all hope seemed lost.

Among the teams that contemplated leaving the Big 12 were Texas and Oklahoma, two of the most highly decorated teams in the conference. But in the end, Beebe was able to convince the remaining teams that he could keep the conference together, even with the subtraction of Nebraska (Big Ten bound) and Colorado (Pac-10 bound).

And even though the Pac-10 whiffed on some of their highest priorities such as Texas and Oklahoma, they will still be receiving much more revenue with the new programs in the fold. 

"I spent my first three months kind of listening," he said. "The common refrain I kept hearing was everyone recognized the excellence of the Pac-10 here on the West Coast but we don't feel we get the respect we deserve nationally.

"It seemed to be a bit of an excuse and that the Pac-10 in my estimation was very laid back and passive in terms of how it went about telling its story and promoting itself," he said.

"To me, the disconnect was people worried about that but they were not really doing much about it."

Scott knew there would be mixed emotions over the decision to expand the conference.

Yet, he decided it would be the best option for the future of the Pac-10 if he went through with it.

Now that the smoke has cleared, he has come to realize that this could be one of the best decisions he may ever in his tenure as Pac-10 commissioner. 

"The response has been terrific," Scott said. "People are craving change, they're craving energy."

Larry Scott, you have now gotten your change and crave for energy; let’s see what you can do with it in the many vital months ahead of you.

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