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Schultz could help Illinois tap Texas pipeline

1/7/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It won't take long for quarterback Juice Williams and his Illinois teammates to understand one thing about their new offensive coordinator, Mike Schultz.

He's not a local.

If the Texas twang doesn't give it away, he'll drop a "dadgummit" every now and then.

And that's not a bad thing.

The man Schultz is replacing at Illinois, new New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley, wasn't from the area, either. Locksley hailed from Washington, D.C., and created an incredible recruiting pipeline from his hometown to Illinois, one that brought players like Vontae Davis, Arrelious Benn and Will Davis to the heartland.

Illinois' 2008 squad boasted seven players from D.C. and several more from the surrounding area.

Head coach Ron Zook hopes Schultz can create a similar channel between Champaign and the Lone Star State.

"I've been involved in recruiting this state for about the last 20 years," said Schultz, a Houston native who spent the last 11 at TCU. "Realistically, coming in from Illinois, we'll have to make some decisions on where we'll have to anchor in on. ... Listen, I've been in this state a long time. There's a lot of football players in this state. From my understanding, Wisconsin has come in here and got football players out of this state. So has Purdue and things like that.

"I'm fairly confident we'll be able to come in and get into the Texas recruiting and get some good kids."

Schultz's recruiting prowess will be critical as Illinois tries to continue to lure top talent despite a very disappointing 2008 season. The Illini currently have no Texans on the roster.

Though Locksley's schemes spurred the Illinois offense, his greater value was on the recruiting trail. Arguably no single Big Ten assistant made a greater impact on a program that Locksley did at Illinois in recent years. It's a tough act to follow, but Schultz enjoys challenges.

He left a very comfortable situation at TCU and comes to a conference in which he's never coached and an area in which he's never lived. Being able to work for Zook, a "high-energy guy" and an "aggressive recruiter," drew Schultz to the position.

"Change can be very healthy, but it can be scary at times," Schultz said. "I'm treading into some new waters."

Schultz, who spent Tuesday packing up his old office at TCU, admitted his scouting of Williams is limited to "what I've seen on ESPN." But he sees similarities between the Illinois offense, a spread system with some read option, and the one he ran with the Horned Frogs.

"One of the things we were talking about with coach Zook is trying to keep things as consistent as we can keep them for the seniors coming back, Juice and those guys," Schultz said. "I like to spread the ball, there's no doubt, but there's times you've to bunch it up and try to run the ball.

"We've used a tremendous amount of formations to try to create mismatches through movement and motion to give us angles or numbers one way or another."