After Illinois showed some improvement in 2013 -- especially on the offensive end and not so much on the defensive end -- head coach Tim Beckman plans to keep his entire coaching staff intact for 2014.
That includes offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, who received a contract extension through the 2015 season and a substantial raise on Wednesday. Keeping Cubit was a no-brainer, as the Illini offense was one of the most improved units in the entire Big Ten during his first season at the helm. Illinois averaged 29.7 points per game and finished fifth in the Big Ten in total offense.
As the former head coach at Western Michigan, Cubit also gives Beckman an experienced assistant to lean on, even if they don't exactly see eye-to-eye all the time.
"He brings so much to our program, not just in X's and O's or touchdowns," Beckman told ESPN.com. "He brings that atmosphere of competitiveness and winning. He's a great person. That's what excites me, coming into the office. ... With his maturity and what he's done as a head football coach, it's a win-win situation for me."
Defense was an entirely different issue for the Illini, who regressed in that area during a 4-8 season. Illinois allowed 35.4 points per game, finished 11th in the Big Ten in total defense and 116th nationally in rushing defense. Many fans called for changes in the defensive staff as a result, but Beckman plans to stick with his guys. That includes coordinator Tim Banks.
"I have the utmost confidence in Timmy," Beckman said. "He had a tough road last year, no question. We did not play very well on defense. But I think, when you look out there and you see that there's a bunch of new faces that are starting for you ... the youth of this team, I've never been around anything like that. Our sophomores or freshmen are backed up by freshmen.
"You look at some of these teams that are successful. You look at Michigan State, and how many seniors they have that have been involved in their defensive scheme. Heck, they're pretty good because they've been around a lot."
Beckman said staff continuity is a big key to success. He's counting on that as one way the Illini can improve their win total again next season and possibly get back to a bowl.
More from Beckman to come in a Q&A on Thursday morning on the blog.