Freshman (Basketball) Jersey Number Day

I normally don’t write this post.  Football always has at least 20 new numbers – last year basketball had two.  So while I do enjoy basketball number discussion (such as “Aaron Cosby will be wearing Dee’s number??” a few years ago), I don’t get the same excitement as I do for football FJND. These numbers tho…

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Freshman Jersey Number Day 2015 (Part II)

I’m halfway through the freshman numbers and we’ve just now reached the 30’s. If you’ve ever wanted confirmation that every player chases a low number these days, this is it. Let’s run through the rest of the freshman numbers… of which only three are higher than 55. [Read more…]

Freshman Jersey Number Day 2015 (Part I)

Freshman. Jersey. Number. Day. I mean, you wait all spring, you know? Is Gabe Megginson going to be something weak like #64 or something bold and strong like #72? (Yes, that joke was just for you, Martin.) Let’s take the next few moments and reflect on the numbers these freshmen will be wearing.  You only get FJND once per year, and I want to enjoy it. [Read more…]

Freshman Jersey Number Day 2013 – Part II

Part I is here. Part II starts here:

Kendrick Foster – #25

25 is a sacred number in Orange and Blue, just on the south side of Kirby. Hmmm… that makes me wonder if we have any sacred numbers on the north side. There are obviously two – 77 for Grange and 50 for Butkus – but those are retired. Anything sacred?

#5 for running backs is a big deal, but that’s just in the last 10 years. (THAT makes me realize that the junior year for #5 running backs has been big. Rashard in 2007 and Mikel in 2010. Time for Donovonn to do work this fall.) I guess #10 and #11 are somewhat sacred for quarterbacks, but that’s about it. Wait – #97 is sacred. Part of me wishes Paul James had taken Simeon Rice’s number so that in a few years he could lead the Big Ten in sacks wearing #97.

OK, this was supposed to be about Foster The People. I like it. #25 in orange and blue works for me. The end.

Jaylen Dunlap – #28

A defensive back wearing the #28 obviously makes me think of Eugene Wilson. So those are some mighty big shoes to fill for Mr. Dunlap. Of course, Dere Hicks already tried to fill those shoes. Who else wore the #28 recently? Troy Pollard, I think, but it feels like he switched between 29 and 28 a couple times. Weird.

Anyway, it’s nice to have a couple defensive backs (Mosely and Dunlap) not wearing single digits. Gotta spread it out. Can’t just have 4-5-6-7-8 out there.

Austin Schmidt – #57

I think, of all the number groupings, I like the 50’s the least. Not sure why. Single digits are your stars, teens are quarterbacks and (now) wide receivers, 20’s maybe defensive backs and tailbacks, 30’s and 40’s for linebackers, 60’s for interior linemen (I don’t know why, just is for me), 70’s for offensive tackles (again, not sure why), 80’s for wide receivers (at least it used to be), and 90’s for defensive linemen. 50’s are just there.

Case in point: our 50’s right now. We have a linebacker, a leo, two long snappers, three offensive linemen, and two defensive ends. Find an identity, would you, 50’s?

Schmidt looked the best of the four new offensive tackles this spring, in my opinion, but I’m struggling to picture a #57 stonewalling a bullrushing Ohio State defensive end. Choose your number wisely, gentlemen.

Christian Dilauro – #65

I pride myself on having the entire roster memorized. At Camp Rantoul one year, assistant AD Cassie Arner was handing out roster sheets to all the fans, and she tried to hand me one, and I told her I had the entire thing memorized, and she was all “no you don’t”, and I was all “try me”, and she was like “#57” and I was all “walkon offensive lineman Kevin Griffin” and she was like “neat”. Cool story, Hansel.

But this spring I was really strugging with the four new offensive tackles. It wasn’t like the numbers were all that close together – #57, #65, #72, and #76 – but I couldn’t remember who was who out there. As such, I told people I though Dilauro looked really good and a lot bigger than I expected for a high school tight end… until I realized it was Schmidt.

Again, I’d like to see Dilauro in the 70’s. Like, the number 70’s, not the decade. Offensive tackles are 70’s to me, so #65 feels off (but not as much as #57 feels off). There are rules.

Dallas Hinkhouse – #72

Now there you go. THERE’S an offensive tackle number. Big number 72, kick-stepping his way to Big Ten stardom.

One problem. Hinkhouse really needs to add weight if he’s going to play tackle. He’s got quick feet, but he probably still needs 30 lbs. Which means he might be more likely to play at guard. Which means the whole #72 at tackle thing is just shot.

Jesse Chadwell – #76

{Ron Zook} “Jeez, Tim, how many offensive tackles do you NEED?”
{Tim Beckman} “At least four more, since you left me with, like, two.”

Chadwell hits all the right notes here. His future is at tackle (there’s a chance that DiLauro and Hinkhouse could end up at guard), so he went with a number in the 70’s. Graham Pocic’s number, which always looked a bit odd for a center (although Pocic did play right tackle for two games last fall when OL injuries were out of control). I’m a fan. #76 at offensive tackle in a few years – looks good.

Trevor Kanteman – #83

Not my favorite new number (that’s coming up in a bit), but probably the number that hits the nail right on the head for me. Here’s what I mean:

Kanteman is the Mike Davis-y recruit in this class. If you remember, Mike Davis joined the 2007 basketball class in August of 2007, a few weeks before school started. He was going to go to prep school in the northeast to get noticed by bigger programs, we noticed before he got there, so we added him to the class 4 months after the spring signing period.

Kanteman is similar. Tore his ACL in high school, wanted bigger offers, went to Juco, sat out a year rehabbing the knee, and was all set to play this fall when our coaches noticed him this May. Now, without playing a down of Juco football, he’s signed at Illinois and a member of this freshman class (he never played Juco, so he has 4 years of eligibility).

He played quarterback in high school, but was set to play h-back/tight end in juco, and that’s what we recruited him as. Let’s see… quarterback in high school… switched to tight end… under the radar kid who eventually earns a scholarship and contributes in a big way as a blocking tight end… that sounds like Eddie Viliunas. So it only makes sense that Kanteman would take Eddie’s number, since they took similar paths and ended up at the same school in the same role. Synchonicity.

Tyler White – #87

Well there you go. Tyler White will be Ken Dilger II. It’s not even a question any more.

All that’s left to decide is whether we will rekindle the Missouri series, but with home-and-homes. And whether we’ll play at Missouri. And whether I’ll go, wearing orange, sitting with Mizzou students in the corner of the endzone. And then, trailing by five, we’ll toss a perfectly thrown ball to our tight end, #87, in the corner of the endzone, causing me to stand up as the ball is in the air, knowing that this is the game winning touchdown with two minutes left, only to have the ball go right through Dilger’s, sorry, White’s hands, dropping to the ground and handing Missouri the game while the entire Missouri section showers me with insults because I stood up cheering a certain touchdown that was dropped by our tight end.

Note to Tyler: catch that one. It will be rather important to me.

Dawuane Smoot – #91

Smoot will be a Leo (standup defensive end), and #91 lining up to rush the passer in just fine by me. He’s listed as a linebacker on the roster, which, for guys like him, usually means Leo. But there’s always a chance they want to start them at Will linebacker and then graduate them to defensive end.

But the number clinches this one. A #91 isn’t tried at Will linebacker for a few years. #91 is a defensive end. Leo it is.

Abe Cajuste – #92

OK, Let’s be honest. You really can’t go wrong with these numbers. Defensive linemen in the 90’s just look right. #90? Sure. #98? Love it. ALL the 90’s.

So for these guys, I’m going to love their numbers by default. There’s not really much I can say beyond that. Here, watch:

Bryce Douglas – #94

Love it. Love all the 90’s. Go Bryce go.

Wait, I lied. There is one number I love more than others. Sorry Bryce, I don’t have much more to say about your number. Love that your dad was a point guard here and you weigh 330 lbs. But I need to move on to…

Jarrod Clements – #99

I mean, it’s perfect. #97 is our sacred DL number, but #99 is my favorite. Not sure why – it just screams “snacking on quarterbacks” to me.

Clements is also one of my favorite players in this class. I watched some film of him at some camps last May and he was just dominant. And I think he was criminally underrated. He switched high schools, then he tore his ACL, so his exposure was limited. But everything about his film screams that this is a 4-star kid.

AND, he’s kind of perfect for this defense (at least what I think this defense will be when Tim Banks gets the player types he wants). Because the Leo (weakside DE) in this defense drops into coverage a lot, that makes one of the defensive tackles become a sometimes defensive end. I think Clements is perfect for that role.

So my favorite DE number + our most underrated recruit = my favorite number choice on the team. You know, now that I think about it, James and Clements and Smoot and Douglas make for a very solid defensive line class. A player for each position.

Can we fast-forward to 2016, please?

Freshman Jersey Number Day 2013

I have a confession.  As you probably know, I love Freshman Jersey Number Day.  So when I refreshed the roster online today and saw that the freshmen had been added, I got a little giddy (and went a little crazy on Twitter).  In doing so, I started singing “Freshman Jersey Number Day” in my head to the tune of the William Tell Overture.

I’ve been doing it all afternoon.  I am not making this up.  This is just something I do because I’m me.  Sitting at my desk, working on a spreadsheet for some project, and…

Freshman jersey number DAY
Freshman jersey num-ber-day
Freshman jersey number DAY
FRESSSSSHHHHHH-shmanjersey num ber day

I kind of wish I was making this up.  It was just this simple thought in my head, and then it ear wormed, and then I was humming it all afternoon.  It’s quite embarrassing, really.

I think I love FJND so much because I’m Bruce Weber. I worry about everything. If we lead Penn State 66-46 with five minutes to go at Assembly Hall State Farm Center, I’m still nervous. Until it’s double digits with less than a minute to go (my reference is always the Missouri game in 1993 when we led by nine with 50-some seconds remaining and lost), I remain vigilant.

So for the incoming freshman class, I don’t think I completely breathe easy that they’re enrolled and will be on the field in Rantoul until FJND.  It’s there, in print.  They have a number.  Aaron Bailey is really happening.

That, and I’m a numbers junkie.  I like certain things about certain numbers for certain positions (can’t really explain it, so don’t ask).  And I love references to former Illini players.  Teko Powell in Corey Liuget’s number makes me giddy.  Again, can’t explain it.

This years’ freshman numbers came out in two waves.  Since 10 of the 24 players in this class enrolled early, we learned 10 numbers back in January.  I might have even written an FJND post back then.  But I don’t want to look to see if I did.  It would take the fun away from a full-scale, 24-person numberpalooza.

So here we go. From low to high. Freshman. Jersey. Number. Day.

Darwyn Kelly – #4

A safety taking PNY’s number makes sense.  Personally I would have liked to see him in Tavon Wilson’s #3 – a “defensive backs from H. D. Woodson high school in Washington DC who go to Illinois get the #3” kind of thing – but #4 works for a safety.  And it looks like he will be a safety.  There was some talk that he might be tried at the Star position (half linebacker, half safety), but he’s listed on the roster as a defensive back, so safety it is.

James Crawford – #5

He’s listed as a linebacker on the roster, so just the opposite of Kelly – Crawford appears headed for the Star position.  He’s listed as 6′-2″, 195 lbs on the roster, so that’s probably big enough for Star.  Ashante Williams played there at 205 last year.

Kind of strange seeing a single digit for a linebacker, though.  I mean, sure, Martez was Big 2, but for some reason, I want them in double digits.  Keep my single digits for defensive backs, wide receivers, quarterbacks, and pass rushers who need to stick out like William Gholston at Michigan State.  Hey, speaking of…

Paul James – #6

LOVE love LOVE love LOVE.  Remember, James had offers from Alabama and Florida State and Texas A&M and several other top-end schools.  And the rumors that were floating around when he verballed to us were that “he only picked Illinois because the other schools backed off due to academics”.  So to see him enrolled and taking summer classes with the rest of the 2013 recruiting class, well, I’m crazy excited.

So as I said above, I’m a big fan of pass rushers in a single digit jersey.  You can’t count on pass rushers to make much of an impact in their first year – Whitney Mercilus didn’t break out until his fourth year on campus – so don’t look for huge things from James as a true freshman (although I think he might play some behind Tim Kynard and Kenny Nelson).  But in 2015, get those #6 jerseys.

Martize Barr – #7

It’s pronounced “mar-TEZ”, by the way.  We saw Barr in the #7 during the spring game. He didn’t have the “hey, who is this guy?” performance  in the spring game that I was hoping for after watching several practices (although he did catch 6 balls for 77 yards), but Barr will play and play a lot this fall.  He’s a more, I don’t know, powerful receiver – think poor man’s Rejus Benn.  Attacks the ball when he catches it.

Sorry – I always slip into 90i mode when I’m doing a FJND post.  I’m good with wide receivers in single digits.  I always think quarterback when I see the #7, but it works for a wideout.

Caleb Day – #7

So if you were looking for an answer to the “will ATH Caleb Day be a wide receiver or a defensive back?”, here’s your answer.  Martize Barr wears #7, and Martize Barr is definitely a wide receiver, so if Caleb Day is also getting the #7, he’s definitely a defensive back.

Hmmm… it feels like all of our single digits (at least the defensive ones) are being used by cornerbacks and safeties.  V’Angelo Bentley is #2. Taylor Barton #3.  Earnest Thomas is #9.  And with Kelly getting #4, Crawford getting #5, and Day getting #7, we’re going to have a completely single-digit secondary in a few years.  Plus…

Dillan Cazley – #8

Another freshman.  Another defensive back.  Another single digit.  It’s conceivable that in, say, 2015 or so our defense would have #2 and #7 at cornerback, #3 and #4 at safety (with #8 as the nickel), plus #5 at Star and #6 as our rush defensive end.  Crazy.

Cazley’s number we already knew, but he was injured this spring, so you didn’t get to see him in the #8 in the spring game.  You watched the spring game, right?  You didn’t?  You missed it – NINE touchdowns.

Dionte Taylor – #13

As a child of the 80’s, I still like my wide receivers in the 80’s.  Art Monk #81.  Roy Green #81.  Steve Largent #80.  Chris Carter #80.  Jerry Rice #80. Hmmm… maybe I just liked wide receivers with the number 80 or 81.

So 7 for Barr and 13 for Taylor, plus (spoiler alert!) Marchie Murdock at #16 and Justin Hardee switching to #19 next year, all of our receivers seem to be looking for a number under 20.  Wait, did I mention that yet?  No – I just think I tweeted it.  Justin Hardee and Kenny Knight are switching numbers.  Hardee from #84 to #19, and Knight from #19 to #84.  Also, Houston Bates switched from linebacker to Leo, so he also switched his number from 30 to 55.  And walkon backup QB James Nudera switched from 14 to 30.  Number day!

Eric Finney – #14

OK, this is weird.  Finney was an early enrollee and wore #12 in the spring game.  And now he’s already switched to #14?  Wait, this kind of makes sense.  Ryan Lankford is competing for the kick return jobs, and he’s the offensive #12, so if Lankford were to return a punt or a kickoff next year, Finney wouldn’t be able to be out there on the return team.  So Finney switches to #14 and we’re good.  I’ve cracked your secret code, Tim Beckman.  ALL the numbers.

Finney is our likely starter at Star this fall.  He’s competing with BJ Bello (#10) for the spot.  So our linebackers will be #43 (Monheim Steamroller), #45 (Bad News Brown), and #14 (Finney… us and Ferb?). Still wish our linebackers would stick to linebacker numbers.  Except you, Martez.  You can do whatever you want.

(I can already tell this will be a two-parter – I’m not even halfway through the list and at 1,250 words.  Low numbers today, high numbers tomorrow! Freshman Jersey Number DAYS.)

Aaron Bailey – #15

I mean, I was pretty sure that this would be the number, but you never know until you know.  Bailey wore #15 in high school, and #15 is a solid number for Illini quarterbacks (Kurt Kittner), so it seemed like this would be the choice.

There are four numbers that say “Illini quarterback” to me.  #7 (Juice), #10 (Jack Trudeau, Jason Verduzco), #11 (Jeff George), and #15 (Kittner).  And now Bailey.  Older folks will yell at me for leaving out #3 (Champaign Tony Eason) and #18 (Dave Wilson), and younger folks might think #2 (Scheelhaase, although the fact that he shared the number with Martez dampens the impact), but 7, 10, 11, and 15 are the numbers for me.

Hmmm… this makes me wonder what Wes Lunt will choose.  He wore #11 in high school, and he wore #11 at Oklahoma State, and Jeff George made the number famous here for quarterbacks who transfer in… but tight end Matt LaCosse is wearing that number this year and next year.  Number fight?  Maybe.

Here I am, talking about my boy Aaron Bailey, and not even I can resist bringing up Lunt.  Camp Rantoul quarterback battle in 2014:  biggest Illini quarterback battle since?  Man, only the spring of 2010 comes to mind as a QB battle (Scheelhaase, Charest, Whitmer).  Before that… 2004?  Yeah, next summer will be fun.

Marchie Murdock – #16

This is my guy.  Based on three minutes of senior film – which looked 94% better than his junior film – this is my guy.  My Asamoah Award guy.  2-star nobody receiver with a weird name and then BAM freshman contributing right away.  I mean, there’s like a 17% chance of that happening, so going this far out on a limb is probably dumb, but I’m a Marchie Man.

Crap – I keep forgetting that this is supposed to be a number post.  Murdock in #16 – well, you already know what I think.  Would have loved to see an 81 here (still open).  Or something like an 88.  But 10’s are the new 80’s, so Marchie gets #16.

Zane Petty – #21

When I hear 21 I think Jason Ford.  So seeing a safety wearing #21?  Strange to me.  Petty also enrolled early, but you haven’t seen him wear the #21 yet – he also was injured and sat out the spring game.  Pretty much, in order to save ourselves from another injury debacle like last season, we sat anyone with the sniffles during the spring game.  The goal: a fully healthy football team on August 31st.

Darius Mosely – #24

I like it.  It’s just… it works for me.  Quite unfairly, I’ve already marked down Darius Mosely as our kick returner for the next four years.  Punts and kickoffs.  Just let him catch it and go.  This is unlikely to happen because he’s a true freshman, but that hasn’t stopped me before.  I decided that Darius Mosely = Eugene Wilson, and I’m not going to move an ounce off of that position until I am proven otherwise.

Actually, that’s not exactly true.  The very first time I saw Mosely play I thought Brandon Lloyd – somewhat unknown high school cornerback shows up and becomes amazing receiver as a freshman.  But when I heard we were going to put him on defense, I morphed that over to Eugene Wilson.  So while I would have like to see Mosely in Wilson’s #28, #24 will work.  Just as long as I get the “plays a ton as a freshman” and the “injects life into a pitiful return game” parts.

Tune in tomorrow for another exciting edition of… (this is where you say it with me like an 80’s game show audience) Freshman. Jersey. Number. Dayyyyyyyyy.

Freshman. Jersey. Number. Day.

There are 5 summer holidays on my calendar: Memorial Day, then Freshman Jersey Number Day, followed by the 4th of July, the Opening of Camp Rantoul, and, finally, Labor Day, also known as The Weekend Missouri No Longer Beats Us In The Dome.

So happy Day After Freshman Jersey Number Day everyone! The numbers are official, so it’s time to dissect.

Teko Powell – #93

We’ll start with a BANG. It was so difficult yesterday to not blog about Teko Powell, Number 93. I’m at work, and then dinner with extended family, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking “a Miami defensive tackle in the #93 just WORKS for me”.

Corey Liuget wore #93. Like Corey Liuget, Teko Powell turned down offers from big-time programs like Florida and Florida State to come north to Champaign. Corey Liuget took Teko Powell under his wing in Miami this spring, working out with him and encouraging him to become the next great Illini defensive tackle. And now Teko Powell gets to wear Corey Liuget’s number the next 4/5 years. I can’t tell you how excited that makes me. Some people get excited when Apple announces a new product: I go crazy for defensive tackles getting to wear the 9-3.

Devin Church – #21

I can’t remember many 21’s in Illini history. Kyle Hudson? That’s the only one that comes to mind, and he switched to baseball before getting drafted and becoming the guy who scored the run to eliminate the Red Sox from the playoffs last September. So Church could really make a name for himself in the 21.

And low 20’s are solid numbers for hybrid tailbacks like Church. I think we’ll see a big change in how we use our tailbacks with this new offense. Less like Wisconsin and Iowa, more like Florida and West Virginia. Hybrid backs who split out into the slot, line up at WR and then motion into the backfield, and generally do less running-over and more running-around. I can see Church doing this. And I can see…

Dami Ayoola – #22

Church in the #21, Ayoola in #22. I like it. In a few years, I think we’ll see a lot of the backfield tandem of Ayoola and Church. And LeKeith Walls, too. This needs a law firm name. “Walls, Church, and Ayoola – where the law is on YOUR side.” No, doesn’t sound right. Law firms should end with a single syllable name. “Ayoola, Walls, and Church – we’re fighting for YOU.” That’s it. Might as well get to Walls, and then we can discuss all three together.

LaKeith Walls – #28

Three freshmen tailbacks, all in the 20’s. This will make Rantoul very easy for spectators. Single digit tailbacks – those are your starters like Young and Ferguson. In the 20’s, like Ayoola, Walls, and Church, where we won’t collect a dime unless YOU do, that means they’re a freshman tailback.

So yes, I like it. Twenties are the new single-digits.

Robbie Bain – #64

Good choice for an Illini offensive lineman. Dave Diehl’s number. Going back to my last few years in school, super-recruit-future-OL-superstar Mike Flaar’s number. I don’t remember who has worn the 64 the last few years – maybe one of the walkon offensive linemen? – so it’s good to see Bain stepping forward and taking the #64.

BJ Bello – #10
Taylor Barton – #3

Man, the safeties are just gobbling up all of the single digits. Starter STEVEHULL gets #5. Other starter Supo Sanni is #7. First-off-the-bench backup Patrick Nixon-Youman is #4. Sophomore safety Earnest Thomas just switched from #24 to #9. And now Bello is 10 and Barton is 3.

Did I just call 10 a single digit? I think I did. It FEELS like a single digit.

Justin Hardee – #19

Well, there’s your offense-or-defense answer. There was a chance they’d try Hardee at WR, and a chance they’d try him at defensive back. But by giving him #19, they’re declaring him a defensive back, because Kenny Knight already wears #19 on offense. And you can’t have two guys with the same number on the field at the same time.

Well, I say “can’t”, but that didn’t stop Ron Zook from throwing Mikel Leshoure and Steve Hull, both wearing #5, onto the field for the onsides kick at the end of the NIU game in 2010. Would have been a penalty had the refs seen it.

V’Angelo Bentley – #2

Love love love love LOVE. If you’ve read this blog very much, you know that Bentley is my guy in this 2012 class. Yes, he was only a 3-star on Rivals and Scout, and unranked by ESPN, but when I watch him on film, I see our future lock-down corner.

So to see our future lock-down corner wearing the #2, well, that’s just perfect. I like my lock-down corners to go as low as they can go (Vontae #1, Hawthorne #1), and since Black Cat still has the #1 locked up for one more year, #2 is just about perfect for Bentley.

And Bentley will also reap the benefits of Jersey Overlap. Lots of #2’s being sold in Champaign right now, as our starting QB wears #2. But after Nate graduates, there will be all of these #2 jerseys in the closet and all of these games to wear them to. BOOM – Bentley gets the #2, becomes our future lock-down corner, and everyone gets to wear their jerseys for a few more years.

I call it Pulling A Brasic. Brasic follows Kittner, takes the same #15 jersey, and suddenly he’s playing in a stadium full of Brasic jerseys. Very smart of Bentley to follow Martez Wilson and Nathan Scheelhaase down the same path.

(More FJND tomorrow)