CHAMPAIGN – The annual football coaches clinic during the Illini spring practice season is a chance for high school coaches to watch some football practice, perhaps soak up some ideas on how to improve their programs and get away from school for a few days of rest and relaxation.
Assuredly, the big draw this season was the chance to talk face to face with Lovie Smith, who just completed his first year as Illinois coach. The coaches from Chicago and throughout the state hold Lovie in high regard for his work as a defensive coordinator during the St. Louis Rams’ run to the Super Bowl and also his ability to lift an underperforming Chicago Bears franchise and guide them to a Super Bowl appearance.
This was a chance for Lovie to show some razzle dazzle, talk it up with high school coaches and promote his program. When he opens up, Lovie is charming and down to Earth. Yet the opportunity was fumbled away when Lovie gave a speech, then showed little interest in rubbing elbows with some of the state’s most influential prep coaches.
The high school coaches “were surprised at how little interaction there was,’’ said one recruiting source. “None of them wanted to talk on the record, but I can tell you the general consensus on feedback wasn’t very positive.’’
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