90i #75: Jimmy Fitzgerald

You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting a player with a torn ACL. In the last 10 months, torn ACL’s felled Jimmy Fitzgerald, Teddy Karras, Chris O’Connor, Tyler White, Mikey Dudek, Dre Brown, and Patrick Nelson. Fitzgerald’s injury was in September, so by the time Rantoul arrives, he should be the first one back to full strength. [Read more…]

90i #76: Julian Hylton

I know I’m behind on these. That’s why I took the bus today. 40 minutes each way to work, laptop in my lap, cranking out 90i posts. Actual free time! Now I just have to get caught up on all the LLOUI posts and then talk basketball recruiting and Malcolm Hill and Lift For Life… [Read more…]

90i #77: Patrick Nelson

He’s obviously not #77 anymore. He tore his ACL last week, so unlike Mikey Dudek or Dre Brown, he’s definitely out for the season. But a list is a list, and when I sat down to do these rankings earlier this month, Patrick Nelson was at #77.

Patrick Nelson
6′-0″, 205 lbs.
True Freshman (on scholarship, 5 years to play 4)
Hales Franciscian High School / Chicago, Illinois

What I Know About Him:

If you don’t follow these types of things – and why would you – this recruiting class was very close on social media. Very, very close. And not just on social media – these guys seem to be genuinely close. Came to nearly every game in the fall together. Came to the spring game together. Heck, Gabe Megginson picked Illinois partly because of his friendship with Dre Brown.

After he verballed, Nelson appeared to be at the center of it all. Who was our “join the fam, bro” guy on Twitter? Pat Nelson. Who was at the center of nearly every photo of a group of recruits? Pat Nelson. Who seemed to buy in to Our State Our Team the most? Brown, Megginson, Fitzgerald, and Nelson. Which is why it sucks so hard that three of those four have torn their ACL in the past few year. Get well soon, gentlemen.

What I Expect From Him:

Nelson was near the top of the true freshmen on this list because Nelson had a chance to play as a true freshman. Not a good chance, mind you, because safety seems fairly set, but there was a chance he would pick up the playbook like Mason Monheim picked up the playbook and be ready to go game 1. Let’s say that it was a 17% chance.

That 17% is now 0% with the ACL tear. Surgery is usually a month after the injury, so let’s say August 1 for surgery, six-to-eight months rehab, maybe they let him go full speed in the spring. Most likely, he’s limited in the spring and we’ll get our first viewing of him in Rantoul in 2016.

Where would he then fit on future rosters? Well, I’d say the top three safeties this fall are Taylor Barton, Clayton Fejedelem, and Caleb Day. Fej (FEJ!) will then graduate and the top three safeties in 2016 will be TayBar, Day, and maybe Jevaris Little (or Darwyn Kelly). So maybe there’s a spot for Nelson as the 4th safety in 2016, with a chance at a starter’s spot as early as his redshirt sophomore year.

90i #78: Justice Williams

((Spring of 2018)) “Who do you think will win the job at Star now that Crawford has graduated?” “JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL”. I will seriously need you people to place tweets on a tee for me the next five years.  So many justice quips and if he doesn’t redshirt I’ll only have four years to get them all in.  [Read more…]

90i #79: Julian Jones

I really am going to move forward with this whole “Truth, Justice, and The American Way” thing. I’m picturing the 2018 linebacking group to be Tre Watson at Mike, Julian Jones at Will, and Justice Williams at Star. So if Tre Watson is going to be “Truth”, then Julian Jones will be… The American Way. [Read more…]

90i #80: Jamal Milan

The 80’s are always the hardest to rank. Wait, that soulds like I’m discussing the decade. I mean the 80’s as in thr players ranked from 80 to 90 on The 90 Illini. Mostly freshmen, almost all will redshirt, what does it matter? IT MATTERS.
Jamal Milan
Defensive Tackle
6′-3″, 265 lbs.
True Freshman (on scholarship, 5 years to play )
Al Raby High School / Chicago, Illinois

What I Know About Him:

Milan was one of the recruits who picked Illinois on signing day. Which, might I remind you, was the craziest signing day we’ve ever had. Trenard Davis down to Pitt, Wisconsin, and Illinois? Picks Illinois. Cameron Watkins down to Vandy and Illinois? Picks Illinois. Ke’Shawn Vaughn down to West Virginia and Illinois? Picks Illinois. Jamal Milan down to Minnesota and Illinois? Picks Illinois.

Now that he’s in school (the “rumblings” during recruiting were that qualification might be an issue, but there he is on campus now, so suck on that, recruiting rumblings), it will be interesting to see how he’s groomed.  Bulk him up for nose guard?  Keep him around 270 and have him play 3-technique?  Regardless, big signing, big future.  Big kid.

What I Expect From Him:

You always want depth at defensive tackle. Remember Keith Gilmore’s “pair and a spare” approach? He basically had five starters at defensive tackle and rotated them liberally. It’s a position where you can tire quickly (it’s much easier, exhaustion-wise, for an OL to sit back and pass protect than it is for a defensive lineman to charge forward. Many high-tempo offenses are designed purely around that concept – keep the DL on the field and don’t allow subs (don’t rotate your offensive players, snap it 12 seconds later) and you won’t have to face any pass rush at all.  The defensive line will be dog tired by the sixth snap.  Like a hockey team that can’t rotate lines.

Gilmore rotated 5 guys. Greg Colby rotated four guys. We will have to see what New DL coach Mike Phair does with his rotations, but my guess is that he’ll rotate at least four DT’s. This year, that’s Bain, Chunky, Teko, and Fotu (name team, yo). In 2016, slide Tito in for Fotu (name team, yo). 2017? 2017, unless there’s Juco help, Milan is going to have to be ready to start.

So there’s your path for Jamal Milan. Likely redshirt. Then you’re going to have to sprinkle him in there as a redshirt freshman in 2016 because in 2017, he’s probably starting next to Tito Odenigbo.

90i #81: Harry Black

It’s “The 90 Illini” and there are only 85 scholarship players, so every year you’re going to see at least five walkons on the list. If we’re at 84 scholarships (which I think is our number right now but I’m never sure which walkons moved to scholarship), you’ll see six walkons. So here’s another walkon who made The 90 Illini: Harry Black. [Read more…]

90i #83: Trenard Davis

It’s officially move-in day for the freshmen. Which means Freshman Jersey Number Day is just around the corner. And soon after that, camp starts and we learn things like “Trenard Davis is lined up with the wide receivers” which means my dreams of him playing safety are shot. And not long after that, football! [Read more…]

90i #84: Zeke Martin

I just spent 15 minutes sorting and re-sorting my 90 Illini list. I really do obsess over this. I feel pretty good about the top-30, but there are some guys in the 50’s who could probably be 38th or so. The 80’s are generally reserved for true freshmen who will redshirt, but given our OL depth issues, I’m a little nervous putting Martin 84th. [Read more…]

90i #87: Michael Martin

It’s not every day you see a countdown of an entire college football roster that includes TWO long snappers, right? Well, this isn’t your ordinary ninety player countdown. This is… THE NINETY ILLINI. [Read more…]