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Lovie Smith has a tough rebuilding job at Illinois

Can the Illini show improvement in his second season?

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NCAA Football: Illinois at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When Illinois hired Lovie Smith as its head coach in March 2016, it’s fair to say that the program was a mess. After firing Tim Beckman a week before the 2015 season due to player mistreatment allegations, the school then fired his successor, Bill Cubit, right before the start of Spring practice a year later. With little time to prepare for the season —and already past signing day— Smith and his new coaching staff had to work on the fly to get ready for the 2017 season.

Spoiler: it did not go well.

The Illini finished 3-9, with a 2-7 record in Big Ten play, and didn’t make a bowl for the third straight year. The good news is that it can only get better this season. (Probably.)

On this episode of The Hangout in the Holy Land, The Champaign Room’s Stephen Cohn breaks down the rebuilding project in Champaign, and everything about the 2017 Illini, including:

  • The return of star wide receiver Mike Dudek from injury, and how he fits in the offense.
  • The explosive running back duo of Kendrick Foster and Reggie Corbin, and needing efficiency from the rest of the offense.
  • How the Illini will replace the pieces they lost defensively in the front seven.
  • Whether Smith’s NFL pedigree has led to an uptick in recruiting.
  • Illinois’ place in the Big Ten West, expectations for the season, and more!

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