What will be our biggest need in the next recruiting class?
We have twelve scholarship seniors (there were only ten, but former walkons Ben Mathis and Tim Russell were given scholarships this season). Six of those twelve either throw or catch passes. We’ve taken care of the quarterback leaving by adding Bailey and Lunt, but we probably need to address the pass-catchers, given that five of them are graduating (four wide receivers and a tight end) and there probably aren’t enough players we can trust behind them. So while you should always be recruiting three years ahead (right now we should be filling the holes for the 2016 team), there’s a need for immediate impact at WR.
Thankfully, we’ve already addressed that with four wide receivers in the 2014 class. So now I’d say the biggest need is defensive line. Specifically, defensive end. We have to find some kids for future teams who can get to the passer.
Wait – you might have meant “the next recruiting class” as in “2015″ since this class is already mostly full (we’ll add maybe 3-4 more players before February). If that was your question… good question.
For starters, holes in the 2015 team should have been addressed last year (and mostly were). So where are we thin in the future? We addressed offensive tackles last year, so I’d say some interior offensive linemen are a must. Need two running backs. Some pass rushers. We have a lot of young guys in the secondary, so that’s probably not as big of a need next year as linebackers might be.
So I’ll put it this way: we’ll need interior guys next year. Interior linemen. Interior defensive linemen. Linebackers. Running back. Not so much on the edges with corners and receivers, lots of guys in the middle.
Are the juco kids going to make an impact? Barr yes anyone else? Not hearing much about cajuste.
Let’s just go one by one.
+ Trevor Kanteman is a juco guy but he comes in as a freshman. He’s been injured, so he’s in a purple jersey off to the side. He’s already used his redshirt year (at the juco, for an injury), so if he can come back he might play this year. Not sure what the injury is, though.
+ Eric Finney you’re aware of. Slated to start at the Star, injured his knee, no bad tears, had it scoped, they hope to have him back right around the opener.
+ Martize Barr, as you say, you know. Lots of talk about Barr this week. Even the BTN guys noted that he looks really solid out there. I think he’s an immediate help at WR.
+ Dallas Hinkhouse has been battling with true freshman Austin Schmidt for second string left tackle. He looked really skinny in the spring, but added some weight in the offseason and looks a little closer to contributing. If he can be the backup, Schmidt can redshirt.
+ Zane Petty is in the rotation at safety. Thinking about it, I haven’t really paid much attention to him. I’ll correct that at the practice later today.
+ Abe Cajuste is fighting for a backup DT spot with Jake Howe and Austin Teitsma clearly out in front for the starting spots (in my opinion). His main competitors are soph Teko Powell and frosh Robbie Bain. My guess: Cajuste is used mostly as a third down DT in pass rush scenarios, because that’s where he excels.
How does the secondary look? Still afraid they’ll give up 3-4 pass TD’s a game vs. good teams.
I think the secondary might win two camp awards. Best Collection Of Athletes and Youngest Roster Of Players For A Certain Position. Working title on both awards.
There are athletes there that certainly look the part. V’Angelo Bentley is a super quick dude. Darius Mosely is an eye-popping athlete. Jaylen Dunlap has been a huge surprise for a true freshman. Earnest Thomas is solidly built. Freshman James Crawford (right now at Star) is a surprise as well. That’s the good news – they’re a really athletic group.
The bad news: Thomas is a junior, and everyone else is either a freshman or a sophomore. It’s really, really difficult to put together a cohesive secondary with so little experience. They’re simply going to be thrown to the wolves this year.
So I think this can be a really great secondary… in a few years.
Ease my fears regarding PR as well as WR.
WR was discussed earlier, but I’ll touch on it a little here: with all of these seniors and an instant impact Juco in Martize Barr, I think this WR corps has the best chance to surprise us. Seniors often do when facing their final season. It’s more likely that we get a surprising season out of our senior receivers than our freshman secondary.
But still, stack them up against the rest of the Big Ten, and I’m not sure who they’re better than. Every team seems to have good receivers. We have… seniors who need to surprise us.
Punt return? Until I see a punt returner catch the ball with space to make a move – actually, until I see a punt returner catch the ball with space to make a move at least five times – I won’t believe we’ll ever have a punt return. Our rank out of 120 teams the last four years on punt returns:
Oh God I’m so depressed again. Thanks Brad. Way to go. You just HAD to make me stare at those numbers again.
I mean, seriously, have you ever seen… I mean, is there… I can’t…. WHAT??
Last year Florida State had 536 punt return yards. We’ve had 159 punt return yards IN FOUR YEARS. I just… I can’t even.
Sorry, you asked about punt returners. Maybe Bentley, maybe Mosely, maybe Miles Osei, maybe Martize Barr. But does it really matter? *stares off into the void*
What will be the identity of this team? Last year was so bad that I’m not even going to try to figure out what that team’s identity was. But what do you think will stand out about this team at the end of the year (good or bad)? What should we expect from a Tim Beckman/Bill Cubit Illini squad? When someone nationally brings up Illinois, what will we be known for (hopefully not tripping refs and getting blown out)?
Great question. Really made me think. I can tell you what the identity is going to have to be if we’re going to be successful. And by “be successful” I don’t mean challenge in the Leaders division – I mean win four, five, or (pinch me) six games.
For this team to be successful I think the coaches are pushing for two things: an offense that can put together long drives and a defense that can create turnovers.
Let’s start with the defense. They’re going to give up yards. Possibly lots of yards. They’re so young that it’s hard to see them not giving up yards. this won’t be 2011, where Koenning’s D finished 7th nationally in yards allowed. There will be yards.
BUT, if they can get some turnovers, they can be successful. Vic Koenning didn’t like gamblers – he liked assignment-sound football players. He once got angry at Miami Thomas for making an interception because he left his assignment to jump a route.
I think Tim Banks might treat this defense differently. I think he might encourage the secondary to take a few risks. Taylor Barton told me their focus is forcing turnovers. I think they’re going to try to make their identity two things: turnovers and a stiff redzone D.
On offense, there aren’t many home run hitters. We’re not going to dropping bomb after bomb. I think Bill Cubit is going to try to mold this offense into a steady, quick-release, I’ll take this five yard completion and this four yard run and keep moving the chains, thank you very much.
Which means they’ll have to be really solid on third down. Which I’m not sure they can do since we were 103rd in third down conversion rate last year.
So there you go. If this team has any chance at success, it will be a long drive offense and a bend-but-don’t-break-while-we-punch-the-ball-out defense.
No problem, right?
Late for practice. No time to edit. Sorry if there’s typos. We’ll call it a Stream Of Consciousness mailbag.