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Coach Tim Beckman said Wednesday he never feared for his job after a 2-10 first season with Illinois.
"No," Beckman said. "I just got here."
The Illini won two of their first three games under Beckman, but dropped their final nine games, including all of their Big Ten contests. They ranked last in the league in scoring (11.8 points per game) and second to last in defense (35.1 points).
I feel pressure every year to win. I don't usually lose. This was new to me. In the last 11 years, I've only had two losing seasons. I've been to a bowl the majority of the time. This is the second losing season I've had. I like to win.” -- Illinois coach Tim Beckman
Amid rumors after the season that Beckman might be fired, Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas publicly voiced his support for the coach he hired to replace Ron Zook.
Beckman recently met with Thomas to discuss the season and the program's future, and Beckman said Thomas understands the coach's vision.
"He's always known that plan," Beckman said. "I think that's one of the reasons he hired me, I hope. He knew. He's an outstanding, outstanding athletic director."
While Beckman has Thomas' vote of confidence, he knows everyone from the AD to the Illini fan base expect to see the program improve sooner than later.
"I feel pressure every year to win," said Beckman, 21-16 in three seasons at Toledo before taking over at Illinois. "I don't usually lose. This was new to me. In the last 11 years, I've only had two losing seasons. I've been to a bowl the majority of the time. This is the second losing season I've had. I like to win.
"I know it was tough. There were some things that needed to be fixed, and we didn't fix them fast enough. We're going to continue to move forward. That's the process. Whatever is needed is going to be done for us to win."
Beckman would not comment on whether he plans to make any staff changes.
Beckman's priority since the season ended has been to build more depth. He announced the signing of five junior college players on Wednesday, and he is also planning for five high school recruits to graduate early and enroll at Illinois in January. He expects to have 27-29 players in his 2012 recruiting class.
"We had three corners who were on scholarship going through spring ball (last season,)" said Beckman, who played six true freshmen this season. "That's unheard of. That's what being able to have January scholarship and being able to recruit is about. 'Hey, do you want to make an immediate impact for Illinois?' That's what we've called it: 'Immediate Impact Illini.' "
Beckman said he remains as confident in being able to transform the Illini into a Big Ten success as he was when he first arrived last year.
"I still believe in the plan we're doing," Beckman said. "It's not like it's not worked before, and I'm making this stuff up. I've seen it. I know it works. I believe in this plan. & How do you move forward? You go out and get quality football players from quality programs. That's what we're doing.
"This is a great university. The education is outstanding. The tradition of the Illinois football program is at the top when you talk about Big Ten championships and national championships. It's been done here. We have to get back there consistently."