Illinois football fans who are calling for the ouster of first-year coach Tim Beckman are reminded that Wisconsin boosters and the Madison media endorsed the firing of Barry Alvarez after his first Badger team went 1-11.
From all available evidence, however, it hasn't seemed to deter Beckman's ability to recruit. Longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports predicts running back Kendrick Foster of Peoria Richwoods will be a star at Illinois.
Foster, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a junior and senior, is the type of player that Beckman needs to improve the talent level of his program, a difference-maker, an instant impact player, a game-changer. Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey could be the same. But the Illini need more of everything.
At Purdue, Joe Tiller re-energized his program when he recruited Drew Brees. Auburn did the same with Cam Newton. And look what Johnny Manziel, a 6-foot quarterback who was passed over by Texas and other major schools, has done for Texas A&M.
"Illinois isn't winning so they don't have any attraction for kids," Lemming said. "But give them an A for effort. Their organization is great. They have been on guys in the Midwest quicker than anyone else in the Big Ten. The bad-mouthing by fans and alumni is undeserved.
"Of course, you must win to draw kids back. Beckman must get the good Illinois players to stay at home. Remember, Beckman was left with an empty cupboard. There isn't much talent on the current roster. They need to get impact players."
To restock the roster with talent that can be competitive in the Big Ten, Lemming said Beckman and his staff must recruit nationally and evaluate everybody from coast to coast. Even Northwestern has become a national recruiter.
"If you can't beat Michigan and Ohio State and Notre Dame in the Midwest, you must go national and be aggressive recruiters. You've got to get a player like Marian Central's Chris Streveler, who went to Minnesota, or Ethan Pocic, who went to LSU, or Ty Isaac, who went to USC, or Jordan Westerkamp, who went to Nebraska."
Beckman is doing his best to make a dent in the class of 2014. There are no first-team All-Americans in Illinois, like Ty Isaac in the class of 2013, but it is a good class that is headed by five players who likely will rank among the top 100 in the nation.
They are tight end Nic Weishar of Marist, linebacker Clifton Garrett of Plainfield South, linebacker Nyles Morgan of Crete-Monee, safety Parrker Westphal of Bolingbrook and tackle Jamarco Jones of De La Salle. None of them, however, figure to rank in the top 50.
The nation's No. 1 player in the class of 2013, 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Loganville, Georgia, apparently is headed for Ole Miss after de-committing from Clemson.
Why Ole Miss over Alabama and Georgia, the two other schools he said he was considering?
"When I interviewed him in February, I thought he would go to Alabama," Lemming said. "But he attended the Ole Miss/Arkansas game. His brother plays for Ole Miss. And his mother wants her sons to play together. I think he will go to Ole Miss."
Lemming spent the month of October traveling and observing and evaluating players in Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. "There are a lot of great players in the South," he said.
Alabama has at least seven players who could rank in the top 50 in the nation in the class of 2014.
The best ones are 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback Marlon Humphrey of Hoover, 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back Bo Scarborough of Tuscaloosa and 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker Tre Williams of Mobile.
Humphrey, son of former Alabama star Bobby Humphrey, is a top 10 player who likely will attend his father's alma mater. Scarborough, who is committed to Alabama, is one of the top five running backs in the nation.
Missouri's top prospects are 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive lineman Andy Bauer of St. Louis Vianney, who is committed to Missouri, and 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive lineman Roderick Johnson of St. Louis Hazelwood Central.
It shapes up as a subpar year for quarterbacks nationally but Oklahoma has two blue chippers in 6-foot-5, 220-pound David Cornwell of Jones and 6-foot-4, 200-pound Justice Hansen of Edmond. Another standout is 5-foot-11, 210-pound running back Devon Thomas of Broken Arrow.
But the best player in Oklahoma is 6-foot-5, 235-pound defensive end Deondre Clark of Oklahoma City, who had 21 sacks in his first eight games. He is a top 20 player nationally.
It is an outstanding year for talent in the Nashville area. The No. 1 prospect in central Tennessee is 6-foot-3, 190-pound wide receiver Josh Malone of Gallatin.
Two of the best players in Arkansas are a pair of nose tackles, 6-foot-2, 320-pound Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado and 6-foot-4, 330-pound Josh Frazier of Fayetteville.