Give Illinois head coach Tim Beckman credit—he doesn't lack for confidence. Results or pesky facts aside, Beckman knows what he wants the Illini program to be, and he is great at messaging that.
After signing what 247Sports scored as the No. 13-ranked class in the Big Ten this past week, Beckman was still out-selling what he signed as something very good.
He especially loved "out-signing" Illinois' rival, Northwestern in Chicago. Beckman touted his team’s accomplishment at his national signing day press conference while also attempting to taunt his rival, according to Mike Clark of the Chicago Sun-Times.
“We signed four football players out of the state of Chicago, as we call it, and that’s more than the actual team that’s in Chicago signed,” Beckman said. “So we’re proud.”
There’s nothing like a good jab at your rivals, as Beckman was of course referring to Northwestern, who bills itself as "Chicago's Big Ten team."
There's firing up alumni and the fanbase, and then there's putting lipstick on a pig. Beckman did the latter this past week, and no one should be buying what he's trying to sell.
Yes, technically, Illinois signed four players from Chicago to Northwestern's three. However, Beckman failed to tell one very important fact—all three of the players Northwestern signed were of the 4-star variety.
All three of those players, and another in-state product signed by Northwestern, all happened to rank higher than the first player Illinois signed from the state.
Perhaps Beckman was selling quantity over quality. However, for a team that also just got done losing to Northwestern on the field to end its season, it's an argument that rings hollow.
The reality for Beckman is that in two seasons at the helm of the Illini, he's gone 6-18 overall and 1-15 in conference play.
Beckman's team did make improvements in 2013, going 4-8 after a 2-10 opening campaign, and the Illini did manage to win a conference game after a 20-game losing streak.
I get trying to excite the fanbase, and there is room for enthusiasm considering the overall trend on the field, but the second go-around on the recruiting trail didn't exactly produce banner results to get excited about.
The good news is that how Beckman and his staff go about things on the recruiting trail has been getting some good endorsements.
“What I love about Illinois, they’re one of the more aggressive recruiting staffs in the country,” recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said, according to Clark's article.
Aggressiveness is fine, but the real question is if progress is being made. The answer to that is not on the recruiting trail, if the rankings are to be believed.
Yes, part of being the No. 70 class in the country this cycle was signing a smaller class of 18 players. On the other hand, Illinois' average rating (0.8225) of its class was still lower than the last class (0.8291).
Had the 2014 class seen a jump in the average ranking of the signees then there would be reason for optimism in the "state of Chicago," as Beckman calls the Chicagoland area.
While it's important to talk a big game, especially to those that fill the athletic department coffers, it’s even more important to walk the walk as well.
Beckman has the first part mastered, but his results on the field and on the recruiting trail have lagged far behind his rhetoric to date.
If he hopes to stick around in Champaign much longer, Beckman needs to do less talking and do more winning.
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for Big Ten football. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.