Ron Zook thread

Submitted by Gorgeous Borges on November 27th, 2011 at 11:02 PM

I know that there have been some threads posted about Ron Zook already, but there are a few things that I would like to discuss about him on this board.

First of all, why does no one seem to be surprised or care the Illinois lost 27-7 to Minnesota, in a game in which Illinois had 18 offensive yards in the first half? How is it possible to end up only putting up 18 yards against Minnesota in the first half?

Also, in light of Minnesota's defensive annihilation of Illinois, do Brian's defensive annihilation muppets seem ill-advised? Does our victory over Illinois look a lot less impressive in retrospect? I would say that it does.

Did Illinois get worse as the season went on or was did the quality of competition just increase? Does having a head coach probably on the way out make a team play better or worse?

Why do people say that Zook is a good recruiter? Did he ever have any top 25 recruiting classes at Illinois?

Why has Illinois' offense turned into a tire fire? Their skill position players are not bad. Does their offensive line suck?

Lastly, the longest-serving B1G coach is Kirk Ferentz. After him, the longest-serving B1G coach is now Pat Fitzgerald, who started coaching in 2006. Is this kind of turnover normal in coaching, when the shelf-life of a coach is about the same as a player?



November 27th, 2011 at 11:18 PM ^

a couple things happened to Illinois


First, yes the quality of their opponents went  up.     Arkansas State, South Dakota State, Arizona State,  Western Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana got them to 6-0 and actually believing they were good.

4 of their next 5 games were Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin.   As the losses mounted the team lost confidence in themselves and eventually their coaches resulting in the mailing it in vs Minnesota.


Minnesota on the other hand actually did get better as the year moved on.  From being utterly terrible, to somewhat decent and capable of beating other bad Big Ten teams.


November 28th, 2011 at 1:24 AM ^

True.  If Kill can get some talent up there they just might start winning some games.  You have to wonder about Kill's health, though.   I have this feeling he will turn Minnesota around and then wind up having to retire due to his health issues.



November 27th, 2011 at 11:29 PM ^

Zook had some top 25 classes right out of the gate at Illinois.  He also landed some very high profile guys like Martez Wilson and Aurellious (sure I spelled that wrong) Benn, who were both 5-stars. 

Since then, recruiting has gone downhill big time (probably to be expected with limited on-field success at a school like Illinois), but he made quite the splash and that reputation has stuck.  He also did a good job recruiting at Florida.  Chris Leak was the top prospect in the country when he signed there and the rest of his guys formed the nucleus for a national title in 2006 and some of his guys were probably still around in 2008 as well.

I also don't think Minnesota was as bad, at full strength, as everyone made them out to be.  Don't forget that we beat them with a back-up, freshman QB.  They played USC down to the wire at USC (still a bit of a mind boggler), they beat Iowa, and they beat Illinois.  Not exactly "worst team ever" material.

And the collapse was virtually all schedule up until this game.  They beat 6-6 ASU by 3 and also beat WMU and Northwestern (sans QB for a big chunk of the game) by 3 during their hot start.  Down the stretch they then played OSU, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin (games you would almost always expect them to lose).  The games against OSU and Penn State were relatively close.  They also lost by 7 at Purdue (a team that finished 6-6 as well but with 2 more conference wins).  None of that is really that farfetched.  This is a team that went 7-5 last year and lost three really big time players in LeShoure, Wilson, and Liuget.  They were always going to slide a little.

They finished about where you would have expected them to, save for the loss to Minnesota. 


November 27th, 2011 at 11:35 PM ^

Say what you want about Zook, but the man is a hell of a recruiter. He somehow convinced a few studs to go to Illinois (ILLINOIS!). They should have been a lot better than they were under him. 


November 27th, 2011 at 11:45 PM ^

I tried earlier to search for a Zook thread.  Does anyone know why the search function does not work in Chrome?  Anyone else having issues with the search and other features not working in Chrome?

oriental andrew

November 28th, 2011 at 12:07 AM ^

In terms of average tenure, the Big Ten is the 2nd "youngest" BCS conferences in terms of coaching tenure.  Conference, Average/Median, Longest tenured coach

  • Big East: 2.88 years/2 years (Rutgers/Schiano - 11)
  • B1G: 3.92 years/2 years (Ferentz - 13)
  • SEC: 4.25 years/3.5 years (UGA/Richt - 11)
  • Pac12: 4.58 years/3.5 years (OR State/Riley - 15)
  • ACC: 5.42 years/4 years (Beamer - 25)
  • Big 12: 5.9 years/4 years (Texas/Brown - 14)

The Big Ten number assumes Bradley = 1 year (2011), Fickell = 1 year, and Illinois = 0 years (new coach in 2012).  

Big 12 number assumes Kansas = 0 years and Snyder Redux = 2 years.

Pac12 assumes Arizona = 0 years (Rich Rod in 2012)

Technically, Pelini is now the 2nd longest serving B1G coach at 9 years, followed by both Fitzgerald and Bielema at 6 years.  There were 5 first year coaches in the Big Ten this year (Wilson, Hoke, Kill, Fickell, Bradley), more than any other conference.  Of course, 2 of those weren't exactly planned.  If Tress and Joe Pa were still around, the conference average would be almost 10 years, with a 5.5 year median.  

The longest tenured coach in a BCS conference is Beamer at 25 years, followed by Mike Riley (15 years), Mack Brown (14 years) and Kirk Ferentz (13 years).  Pinkel, Stoops, Schiano, Grobe, and Richt have all been around for 11 years at their respective schools, and Tedford for 10 at Cal.  Of the 66 coaches in BCS conferences, 10 have been around a decade or longer, and the overall average is 4.5 years and a median of 3 years.

Long story short, this is common throughout college football these days.  Not many coaches have more than 5 years (17 coaches), much less a decade (10 coaches).  74% of the coaches in BCS conferences have held their positions for less than 5 years.  Not including notre dame.  


November 28th, 2011 at 12:16 AM ^

Mike Riley left to coach the Chargers in the middle of that tenure but then came back.  Not sure how to look at that or how it matters, but it would change the numbers.

Also, with Erickson getting canned you could set another Pac12 school to zero.  Probably can do UCLA after next week as well.

oriental andrew

November 28th, 2011 at 12:20 AM ^

totally missed the mike riley thing - didn't realize he left for a while.  And didn't realize erickson was canned, either.  Don't follow pac12 too closely.  Figured neuheisel would get the boot sooner or later (not exactly the homecoming he had in mind, i'm sure), but since it hasn't happened YET...


November 28th, 2011 at 1:29 AM ^

Minnesota isn't as bad as you think. They lost to USC by 1 or 2 points @ SC. I know Barkley, Woods and Lee didn't have it going on all gears, but they were as talented in week 1 as they are now. If they weren't on probation they'd probably be a top 10 team, I mean, they beat Oregon. When we shutout 58-0 Minnesota, Gray was out and they had a freshman in. If Jerry Kill can stay healthy, he can really make Minnesota a top 25 program. I hope he does, because the more nationally relevant teams we play, the more nationally relevant we become.

Zook is a great recruiter and brought kids highly rated kids to Illinois from the Midwest, D.C. Area and Florida. I have no clue what happened to that offense, but I know the defense struggled from being on the field all the time because of all the offensive 3&outs. Zook needed to go, but he should get a gig in the Big East or ACC.


November 28th, 2011 at 1:47 AM ^

I kind of look at the end of the season like our game against Mississippi State.  Everyone knew what was coming, and no one had any fire because of it.  All the players, fans, alum, and even Zook knew that he was a goner and it prolly messed with the team and was a big factor for why they didn't show up.  I just don't know why the AD didn't come out and say that Zook is our coach this year and next.  I honestly think that they could have won one or two more games, and the reality in Illinois is that they are a terrible football program.  Zook has led them to unprecedented "success", speaking relatively, in his tenure at Illinois.  I just don't understand certain teams, not everyone can compete for a championship.  Obviosly you can't say you are going for mediocracy, but when Zook has led you to the best results in a long time, what do you expect?

Gorgeous Borges

November 28th, 2011 at 1:58 AM ^

 You know, I would say that, but Ohio knew Urban was coming and still managed to play pretty hard this past Saturday. Earle Bruce was a lame duck when they beat Bo in his last year. Maybe Ohio is just particularly good at dealing with this since every head coach at least since Woody Hayes has been fired?


November 28th, 2011 at 4:32 AM ^

Why can't Illinois be a football power? They play in a BCS conference, do not have strict academic standards like a Northwestern, and have some tradition (though it is far in the past). I do not see any reason that Illinois should settle for being average. If schools like Boise, Houston, and TCU can be succesful then Illinois can too. I do not buy the reasoning that Illinois should be happy they have Zook. Zook was average at Florida and proved to be average at best with Illinois. Were I an Illinois fan I would want a change as well.


November 28th, 2011 at 10:23 AM ^

Outside the top four, that's how the next six or so B1G teams (and the majority of BCS conference teams) have to compete. Look at Wisconsin lately, or Iowa in 2008/2009, MSU the past two years, or Northwestern or Illinois every few years. IU and Minnesota are the only programs where it's seen as pretty much impossible to win at the moment. Past those two, there's no reason Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin, MSU shouldn't be competing for a Rose Bowl every fourish years.

The key is maintaining respectability in between. Illinois would be stupid to fire a coach for losing often to OSU and Michigan, but going 0-6 down the stretch is pretty awful.


November 28th, 2011 at 10:17 AM ^

Illinois was never a good football team this year, even when they were 6-0.  I never understood why so many folks here were worried about playing them when they were fortunate to have beaten Western by 3 (WMU passed for nearly 400 yards on them), needed Dan Persa to leave the game in the 4th quarter to come back from 14 points down and win by 3 over Northwestern and won another 3 point game over Arizona State team that ended the season at 6-6 themselves.  These guys could very easily have been 3-9.  

Illlinois brought this misery on themselves.  The hire was never a smart hire.  They saw how many games Zook lost coaching at Florida where the state is filled with arguably the best talent in the country.  If Zook couldn't win at Florida with great players, what made Illinois think Zook could win with bad and medicore players in Champaign?