Beckman adds 19 players to football roster in first recruiting class

New Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman officially added 19 players to his roster Wednesday, the early signing day for all NCAA football programs.

Beckman was hired in early December, leaving little time for him to finalize his staff and recruit.

In recruiting, Beckman said he began with players who had already committed to Illinois and former head coach Ron Zook.

The first day after his hiring was announced, Beckman said he called every recruit to assure them they still had a place on his team.

“As a football coach and as a human being, it wouldn’t be right to pull everybody’s scholarship,” Beckman said. “I told them on Dec. 10, if they would like to be an Illini, I would love to have them. I watched them all on film. They’re all capable football players, and I knew that Coach Zook and his staff had done a good job recruiting.”

Beckman admitted to experiencing challenges with the limited time frame but declined to discuss them, instead opting to focus on the positives of recruiting the 2012 class.

“When you walk around these streets of Champaign, and you see these great facilities we have, you also notice these great people we have,” Beckman said. “That was another selling point to the 19 players that we got here. That this isn’t just about the bricks, the nice stadium, a beautiful press box and a great weight room. It’s about people that are going to get taken care of and take care of you to make sure that you’re the best.”

*Recruiting winners*

Beckman touted the quality of individuals he added to his roster, from the 3.27 average GPA to the state championship resumes.

“I think it’s very important that you surround yourself with winners,” Beckman said. “It’s what I’ve done with our football staff. That’s the way we attack recruiting. Surround yourself with young men that know what it takes to win.”

Among the 19 signees, there are seven state championship appearances and 163 total postseason games played. While Illinois’ class is presumed to be among the bottom of the Big Ten, Beckman said this group will truly be evaluated after their college careers.

“There’s been numerous football players that I’ve coached throughout my years that have won Heismans, have won Butkus awards and were rated two stars,” Beckman said.

Beckman said the class will have an opportunity to contribute on the field immediately and said he has no plans to redshirt any at the moment.

“I haven’t said one person is getting redshirted yet,” he said. “That’s up to them. Come in shape, not just physically but mentally, because the game of football is played with men, 18- to 23-year-old men. … You come in physically prepared and then be prepared to work even mentally, and you can play this college football game.”

*Content at quarterback*

Notably missing from the 2012 recruiting class is a quarterback. Beckman said he was content with the four signal-callers already under scholarship: sophomore Nathan Scheelhaase, freshman Reilly O’Toole, freshman Chase Haslett and sophomore Sean McGushin.

“It’s all about numbers,” Beckman said. “You’re looking for numbers. You’re looking for quality players. … The three quarterbacks that I watched play during postseason here, I thought, have some outstanding talents, not just as football players but as leaders.”

Beckman added that he likes to have four to five quarterbacks on the roster. He also added numbers to two areas in which he thought his roster was lacking: running back and defensive back. The 2012 class includes six defensive backs and three running backs, bringing the team totals to 20 and six, respectively.

*Williams aids recruiting in Chicago*

Beckman said he doesn’t like to single out players in a recruiting class, but made an exception with defensive lineman Vontrell Williams out of Mt. Carmel high school in Chicago.

“We put this recruiting class kind of in Vontrell’s hands,” Beckman said. “We said, ‘Hey, you wanna be known your senior year and known to be a champion? We need your help.’”

Beckman not only praised Williams’ talent on the field, but lauded his efforts in reaching out to various recruits in the Chicago area.

“Vontrell did an outstanding job of reaching out to his classmates, to get this recruiting class established in such a short time,” Beckman said. “He wanted the best, and he’s a Chicago native, and he wanted as many young men as we could get out of this fine state of Illinois.”

*Looking ahead: class of 2013*

While the class of 2012 was announced Wednesday, recruiting for the class of 2013 is already underway. Beckman said he already has offers out to several recruits and that he hopes to bring in some for the men’s basketball game against Northwestern on Sunday.

“We’re gonna just try to get people here,” Beckman said. “And why not? I mean look at this place. It’s gorgeous. We always have weather like this, right? I mean it’s just unbelievable. We want to get them here and get them to meet our coaching staff because our coaching staff is exciting. They’re young, they’re energetic. That’s who’s gonna be, you know, the fathers away from home.”

Among the 19 recruits, 13 are from within five hours of Champaign, or what Beckman calls “Illini Nation.” Beckman and his staff are making that region and the Chicago area a priority. He said four coaches will concentrate exclusively on recruiting in Chicago.

“We’re gonna recruit it as hard as it’s ever been recruited,” he said. “Wherever the ties are, we’re going to go look for football players. And if they fit what we want in a football player … We’re going to have them join.”

Illinois currently has 82 of a maximum 85 players under scholarship. Beckman didn’t rule out bringing in three additional players but, with a small senior class graduating next year, said he may hold those scholarships for 2013.