Pick My Post – 2011 Defense

I need to think about other things. I spend all my time thinking about investigations and official statements and accusations tweeted as headlines – I need to think about something else. So I tweeted out a Pick My Post, and this is the topic I chose: the 2011 Illini defense. [Read more…]

No “Rush To Judgment”

I spoke with Athletic Director Mike Thomas today. And while interviewing him, I realized one thing: why am I speaking to Mike Thomas? We all want answers right now, but I realized while talking to him that those answers probably shouldn’t come from him. And if they were coming from him, this whole thing gets worse. I’ll attempt to explain. [Read more…]

Clarification

For the past 72 hours I’ve been struggling to understand exactly what we’re talking about. Are these accusations of abuse? Is it the “forced to play with an injury” thing? A players MRI that wasn’t paid for? A player not being allowed to see his father? The investigation announcement, to me, focuses the spotlight on what we’re talking about. [Read more…]

My Observations

I’ve now written three posts on the Simon Cvijanvoic situation. This will be the first one I publish. Probably. Maybe. This first one was too soft. The second one was too hard. If this one isn’t juust right, I give up. So here’s my attempt to describe the situation as I see it. [Read more…]

Football Mailbag – Part II

“Hey everyone, send me questions.” “OK, Robert, here are our questions!” {life gets in the way} (five days later) “Hey everyone, here’s the second part of the mailbag, posted at 7:30 on a Saturday evening!.” [Read more…]

2016 Football Recruiting Overview

This is typically a very dead time in the offseason. Spring football is over and Rantoul is not for 3 more months. For me (Craig), this is the time I start to look at the roster and figure out where the team is going (as does Robert as seen by his 3 deep from last week.) [Read more…]

Post-Spring Three-Deep

I wrote this long, whiny post yesterday about burnout and the perils of maintaining a near-daily blog whilst working a sometimes hectic full-time job (and being a father & husband). But it had been far too long since I wrote something and deleted it, so it’s in the trash. Instead, let’s get to all the posts I should have written since the spring game. First up: depth chart. [Read more…]

Looks Like University Of Illinois – Amani Jones

This is that yearly LLUOI post where I explain why I started doing the LLUOI thing in the first place. And then, at the end, maybe, I’ll talk about Amani Jones. Oh who am I kidding I love this recruit no way I don’t gush about him at the end. [Read more…]

Spring Game Photos

I have all these photos that Jonathan took on Saturday.  I have this website here where I can put the photos “online” for people to “view”, so it hit me: what if I put all of Jonathan’s photos in a “slideshow” on the “internet”.  Might I then change the rules of digital media forever?  Yes, I probably will.  By posting photos of a game that ended 53 hours ago.  [Read more…]

As You Wish

I was all “yeah, I’m not sure we’ll score a touchdown in the spring game”.  And then our first string offense went for -5 yards on their first series and I was all “yeah, we’re totally not going to score any touchdowns today”.  And then that offense scored 44 points.  So don’t listen to me, ever.  Related: here’s things I have to say about the spring game!

That was pretty much what I was hoping to see. The last three years, Tim Beckman has done the spring game draft-style.  The seniors are divided into two teams and they draft the teams.  This year, that wasn’t possible due to injuries.  The defensive line had enough players at Leo, but there were two available ends and three available tackles.  If there was a draft, one of the teams would have to put a player from another position on the defensive line.  While seeing #fatkicker at d-tackle would have been fun (wait – could we do that? He’s kind of a personal hero of mine at this point), it was best to just put the defensive linemen in different colored jerseys and have them play for both teams.  

Which meant that this wasn’t like the last three spring games.  The last three were an attempt at balance.  You have your first string RB and first string QB on one team, but they’re playing behind a second string guard and third string tackle, so that might not work out so well.  This year was an attempt at a blowout.  First string O plays second string D and vice versa.  So you pretty much want the score to be 55-3.  The first strings better dominate. 

The first strings dominated.  To the tune of 44-7.  It’s funny to me that the game score will be repoted as 44-41 (Beckman spotted the second stringers 17 points in each half).  If this kind of thing is legal, and the BTN will flash the spring game score on the screen, I say we gift both teams 77 points next year (for Red!).  When one team scores 23 points, they clear 100!  Some random fan can be flipping past the Illinois spring game on TV and see that the score is 104-98 and be amazed!  #ideas #marketing 

Let’s talk about the football.  I expected the offense to look like the offense has looked all spring (that is, thoroughly dominated by the offense), but the ones-vs-twos eliminated that.  After a shaky first series where the first string went backwards twice on three plays, the first string offense looked as good as it has all spring.  They didn’t run the full stats (per team), and the game was shortened with a second half running clock, but if you add up the numbers from the skill players, it looks like the orange offense (first stringers) had around 375 yards passing and 125 yards rushing.  For a ones/twos spring game, that’ll do. 

{acknowledgement paragraph that shows up in every spring game write-up}

Maybe it just means our second string defense has a long way to go. It was encouraging to see the offense put up some solid yards after a few scrimmages where they really struggled to do that, but with a team missing 16 players to injury rehab, it’s really hard to say where you’re at as a team.  We really won’t know until Kent State, and even then we might not know until North Carolina, and even then we might not know until we play our home road game against Nebraska with a crowd that’s more red than orange.

{/acknowledgement paragraph that shows up in every spring game write-up}

So let’s just list some names of guys who stuck out.

Henry Enyenihi

With Dre Brown winning a trip to the Bahamas by becoming the 100th Illini player to tear his ACL, Enyenihi, who might have been behind Brown this spring as the backup tailback, is now the clear #2 guy heading to Rantoul.  And with Dude K injured, the coaches have discussed using Josh Ferguson in the slot a bit more, which means that #2 tailback might be the defacto #1 guy at times (four WR, Ferg in the slot, one tailback with lots of blitz pick-up duties).  That could be incoming freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn but it might be Enyenihi, the juco transfer from California.  He rushed for 87 yards on 16 carries in the spring games, so that’s definitely a nice statement.

Tito Odenigbo

I know, I should shut up about him.  I hand the guy my famous-only-to-me “Asamoah Award” (lower ranked recruit who will be a stud), so then I try to over-exaggerate his development because I want to see my Asamoah winners succeed. If you’re scoring at home, the Asamoah Award winners on the field this year: V’Angelo Bentley, Marchie Murdock, Tito Odenigbo, and arrives-in-the-fall Caleb Reams.  

Anyway, Tito did what a promising defensive tackle should do against walkon offensive linemen: get in the backfield and make plays. It wasn’s just the tackles for loss that impressed me (three on the day) – it was general disruption.  Force the tailback to bounce outside.  Follow the play down the line.  He’s still a freshman, so he’s not ready to take on an Ohio State offensive line just yet, but I’m excited to see Tito’s development. 

Wes Lunt

This was easily the best Lunt has looked this spring.  I’ve attended five practices, with him facing this same second-string defense, and he made his first, second, third, and fifth best throws of the spring in this game.  117 for 26, 236 yards, and perhaps most importantly, no interceptions.  He’s thrown some head-scratchers this spring (I think I’ve seen at least six head-scratchers which are usually Bill Cubit hat-throwers), and this spring game was scratch-free. With Dudek out, our best offensive weapon is probably “jump ball to G-Mo”.  More please. 

Ainslie Johnson

I’m starting to get more on board with juco tight end Ainslie Johnson as the fullback-y tight end.  He’s still learning blocking technique, but he’s stuck out more and more as I’ve watched practices this spring.  I’m not sure how it will shake out this fall, but tight end will probably be some rotation of Tyler White and Andrew Davis as the receiver-y tight ends and Ainslie Johnson and TIm Clary as the fullback-y tight ends.  I was worried after the first practice that it would be a huge dropoff from Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse last year and the new guys this year.  Still worried, but maybe less so after yesterday. Positives!

Caleb Day

It’s time, right?  Day comes in, four-star ATH on some services, and we’re all wondering if he’ll be at cornerback or safety or wide receiver.  He’s been on defense the whole time (except for this game where he caught a 26 yard pass), but he’s bounced from safety to corner to safety.  Now, as he enters his junior year, we’re all hoping for a click.  We need to have a deep rotation with our safeties like we have with our corners, and Day clearly needs to be one of those top three guys.  He looked good there, so I think I’m ready to predict a Jihad Ward-like junior year progression for him.  Maybe a little overwhelmed at first, but by November, we’re all talking about the huge senior year he might put up. 

Taylor Zalewski

TZ made his field goals. David Reisner missed his field goals.  So this summer and into this fall we need to see TZ run away with the job.  “If you have two kickers you have none” and whatnot.  Same with Ryan Frain at punter.  Run away from the others, please.  I want to go to Rantoul feeling like we clearly have both specialist spots settled. 

Those are my thoughts for now.  I’ll have more on the spring game later this week.  In fact, I have a ton to write about.  Amani Jones LLUOI.  Spring game back-and-forth with Steve.  Mike Thorne LLUOI.  Maybe even a check-the-tape on the spring game.  Yearly post-spring mailbag.  It should be a busy week around here.  

Maybe I can even land an exclusive one-on-one interview with #fatkicker.  In which he beats me senseless for calling him #fatkicker.