Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo said it's "way too early to tell" how the Beckman hire will play out.
The transition is complicated by the relative Illini success in Zook's last two seasons. Sure, the Illini lost their last six regular-season games in 2011, but they also finished 7-6 and won a bowl game each season. That could affect how the players deal with adversity in this injury-plagued year and the degree to which they commit to Beckman's plan.
"Through the players' eyes, they have seen recent success," DiNardo said. "If you make a change, it's to have more success.
"I see this as a team that doesn't seem to play with great effort."
Tribune contributor and high school football recruiting guru "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran also advocated for more time. He said recruits have recognized the problems at Illinois, but said they could foresee opportunities for early playing time.
"You'd have to be completely blind not to see," O'Halloran said. "Kids I've talked to have mentioned it and said, 'Yeah it's not good.' ... (But) winning cures all ills when it comes to recruiting. (Losing) will have an impact if it's more than a year or so. "You have to give (Beckman) time. It's not his team."
Thomas said he has heard from angry fans but repeatedly stressed the need to build a foundation when defending Beckman's hire.
"The fans are upset," Thomas said. "They're disappointed. They're frustrated. So am I. So is Coach Beckman and his staff and his student-athletes.
"We need to keep persevering, keep working hard, continuing to get better every day. The hope and the goal is to have success with the five football games we have left."
Win or lose, they're not likely to be Beckman's final five games.
Shannon Ryan and Jared Hopkins contributed.