It has become official; Lovie Smith is now the new Head Coach for the University of Illinois Fighting Illini football program. Smith, for those who may not know, brings an 89-87 career record (.506) to the University of Illinois after 9 seasons as Head Coach of Chicago and 2 seasons as Head Coach of Tampa Bay; according to pro-football-reference.com. He will be taking over as Head Coach of the team after the firing of Coach Bill Cubit from the position. This is a monumental step for the Fighting Illini football program, and they are ready to take the next step toward becoming a force in College Football.
Lovie Smith is now walking into a football program that is and has been in dire need for some kind of light to bring them from the darkness. This program hasn’t had a winning season since 2011, and hasn’t ended the season ranked since 2007. But this will all change with the acquisition of Lovie Smith, who has a history of turning teams around quickly with his style of coaching, especially helping the young players make that transfer into the NFL.
An example of this would be during his recent tenure in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers. During his time there, Smith was able to help bring this young team from 2 wins his first year to 6 wins his second year. And, if management didn’t end up letting him go after only his second year, he would have ABSOLUTELY brought Tampa to the playoffs in either year 3 or year 4. In edition to that, his teachings to young Jameis Winston were crucial in his development into a starter in the league, as well as a Pro Bowl selection in his very first year.
So what needs to happen in these next two years? Lovie Smith needs a chance to be able to bring in his own recruiting class and develop them into starters for the program. With the prestige that he has built in the game of football, the name Lovie Smith itself will be able to draw some top talent from around the country to Illinois. So once Smith get’s a chance to recruit, University of Illinois will see one of their best recruit classes in a very long time. But, until then, I will project the Fighting Illini to improve to 8 wins next season with the current roster that they have. Lovie will be able to walk into the program over the offseason and help add 3 wins overall to this team after a somewhat dismal 2015.
In result, the Illinois Fighting Illini are going to help make the Big 10 an even stronger conference. They will be competing with the reoccurring juggernauts of Ohio State and Michigan State, the rising teams of Michigan and Iowa, and the up-and-down teams of Northwestern and Wisconsin. As the Illini continue to build there program back up to relevancy, we will be seeing an even stronger Big 10 conference, and an even closer race to the championship for years to come.
“Illinois Fighting Illini.” College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Fox Sports Engage Network, 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2016. <http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/illinois/>.
“Lovie Smith Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks | Pro-Football-Reference.com.” Pro-Football-Reference.com. Fox Sports Engage Network, 2016. Web. 09 Mar. 2016. <http://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/SmitLo0.htm>.