There's no sugar coating that the Tim Beckman-era hasn't been what Illinois fans nor Beckman have wanted it to be.
From getting off to the beyond rocky start that saw him draw criticism for attempting to "poach" Penn State talent in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal on through two seasons that haven't seen the on-the-field results desired, many Illini fans were calling for Beckman's head before he really even had a chance to fully get his recruits into place with the team.
After some positive momentum on the recruiting trail and doubling his win total from his first to second seasons, Beckman is tunnel visioned on taking the next step.
"We're a young football team, but we're an experienced team," the Illini head coach said.
"You take the two deep and you look at your offense, defense, and special teams, and that rounds up to 50 football players. We have 40 of those guys back."
Echoing Purdue's Darrell Hazell, Beckman spoke highly of the new bylaw that allows coaches to meet with players two hours a week and feel special teams could be a huge strength for the Illini this year with all 11 starters on some of the units returning.
"You can see the maturity this team has progressed through and to me it's exciting. It's very exciting. Our players have been working extremely hard."
While the wins haven't been there – just two in his first year and four in his second – the Illini continue to do just about everything else right.
"We've made strides from GPA and service hours to actual wins and loses," Beckman said. "It's not the numbers we all want, but we did get better."
While the team's shown some progress on the recruiting trails, Beckman knows not unlike Howard Schnellenberger in the 80s with the so-called 'state of Miami', he'll have to lockdown Chicago if the Illini want to take that next step.
"[It's] huge. I mean, I'm an in-state guy. I've worked in programs that have competed at national championship levels. If you look at those programs, we've done studies on those programs, and we've done studies on teams that compete at that level. The majority of those players are from in-state. That's always been our motto at recruiting, it's been our philosophy, we have to continue recruiting 'the state of Chicago', the state of Illinois, to the best of our abilities."
Though he declined to state if he felt he was becoming part of the league's old guard with this being his third media days, Beckman did oblige at least now one annual tradition.
"I do have to say happy birthday to my mother," Beckman said in truth-in-jest fashion for the third straight Media Days.
"Did I do good?" he asked the moderator. "I did good."
Hard to disagree, coach.