Big Ten Champs, Or Big Ten Chumps?

Michael GoinsContributor IFebruary 7, 2009

The 2008 season started the same way it ended, with a loss.  

Every true Fighting Illini fan started the season with high hopes, and anything less than a share of the Big Ten title would be unacceptable.  The season started playing Missouri and we lost again. This game slipped through the cracks as with last year's game (too many reasons to list).  The facts are, the Fighting Illini were not prepared from the top to the bottom, and this game would be the prelude to the season.  

The Illini Nation never saw it coming, and the 2008 season was a mirror image of Zook's last season at Florida, not only losing every big game but not even winning the last game of the season, a must win game to become Bowl elligible.  Ron Zook and his staff fell into the same rut that knocked the wheels off the wagon at the Rose Bowl. 

The 2009 season is yet upon us, all the LOI's are in and the Fighting llini have another very strong recruiting class with lots of speed and talent.  This is it for Juice Williams, this may be Arrelious Benn's last year at the college level so, Juice had better set some goals for this year or his extended playing career could be in Europe. 

There's a new Offensive Coordinator in town by the name of Mike Schultz and he scores in bunches and I believe benching a Senior QB is not above him. 

This recruiting class has some underrated kids that should fit well into the Illini system.  The most sought after signees were, a four-star Receiver, Terry Hawthorne, a top-ten ranked WR in the country,  Justin Green, a highly sought after speedster ATH from Kentucky,  and Andrew Carter one of the best Tackles in the state of Florida just to name a few.

Justin Green could be a sleeper back with the skills to be a future All-Big Ten player or better. 

Jarred Fayson is a name we get to know real soon, a 5 star player recruited by the Florida Gators, transfered to Illinois, sat out last year and has two years of eligibility to play.  This kid brings a ton of talent with him. 

The receiving corp this year will be as big and strong as any group in the country with speed to match.  There will be some knock-down drag-out battles this year at Camp Rantoul for the Illini crew on both sides of the ball and hopefully put life back into the Fighting which by the way, was beat-down last year like an old abused swayback horse. 

Ron Zook had better take notice to this year's team and get those cannon's at Memorial Stadium firing or the whispers will become talk about his ability to coach versus his talent to recruit, and many think Zook's one of the best.  The new Illini staff have to learn quickly that the Big Ten Conference is unlike any in the country and success or failure will start at the top.   Go Illini...