Illinois Football: Time for the Illini Defense to Wake Up

Todd Thorstenson@@Thor1323Analyst ISeptember 12, 2012

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 12: (L-R) Akeem Spence #94, Michael Buchanan #99 and Glenn Foster #47 of the Illinois Fighting Illini await the start of play against the Michigan Wolverines at Memorial Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Michigan defeated Illinois 31-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Defense was supposed to be the strength of this year's Illinois Fighting Illini Football team.

Coming off a 2011 campaign where they finished seventh in the nation in total defense, Illinois had high hopes for this year's unit as they returned seven starters.

Despite playing without two of those starters—Supo Sanni and Steve Hull—in the season opener against Western Michigan, the Illini defense looked pretty solid, but that was certainly not the case last weekend in Tempe against Arizona State.

Even with the return of Hull, who was injured again during the game, the Illinois defense was no match for the ASU offense.

The Illini were sliced and diced in the desert night as they surrendered 510 yards of total offense and really couldn't slow the Sun Devils down at all in a 45-14 loss.

This certainly was a wake up call for coach Tim Beckman and his staff as they most certainly have some work to do if they want to compete in the Big Ten this year.

Beckman and many of the defensive players have been chalking up the bad defensive effort against ASU to a few "miscommunications" due to the new scheme and coaching staff.  Now I'm no expert by any means, but I do believe that communication is a fairly big part of the game.

Like I said, sounds like they have some work ahead of them.

The good news is that Illinois has two weeks to straighten things out before they start their Big Ten schedule on September 29th against Penn State.

They will face the always powerful Buccaneers of Charleston Southern University this weekend in Champaign followed by another powerhouse in Louisiana Tech next weekend.

I'm not sure how much good it will do for Illinois to play two inferior opponents prior to starting the Big Ten season, but they should get two wins.

I mean Charleston Southern, really?

They are 0-2 and have been outscored 80-24 by the Citadel and Jacksonville University—how much are you really going to gain by beating up on them?

Nevertheless, that's what's on the schedule so Illinois needs to go out and dominate defensively in order to restore some confidence in themselves and some faith in their fans.

There's no doubt that they have the pieces to be one of the better defensive units in the conference—if not the country—but they've got to get things in order.

With a front seven that is stacked with guys like Michael Buchanan, Akeem Spence, Glenn Foster, Jonathan Brown and Ashante Williams and a secondary that contains seniors Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green, there is no reason that this Illini defense should struggle this season—there's just too much talent there.

Again it is a new coaching staff and a new scheme, but that's what training camp is for.  Miscommunication and missed assignments shouldn't carry over too far into the season and hopefully for the Illini's sake they won't.

Hopefully what Illini fans saw last week was just a mirage in the desert and the real Illini defense will be back on the field for the rest of the season because things are going to get a lot tougher down the road.

The Big Ten schedule isn't far off and for the Illini it's not a favorable schedule either.  They have to travel to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State—a far cry from playing Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech at home.

At this point all the Illini can do is regroup and come out with a strong effort Saturday to get back on track.

It should be an easy one against Charleston Southern. 

After all, Charleston should be pretty tired after playing in their high school game on Friday night.