Looks Like University Of Illinois - Ricky Smalling
Let me just start with this. Using the composite rankings, the highest ranked player to pick Illinois last year was TE Zarrian Holcombe, who ranked #704 nationally. Ricky Smalling's ranking on the composite list? #333. This is Lovie climbing up two or three rungs on the talent ladder. As it should be.
"Is #333 impressive", you say? As always, apply the 6.54 rule (there are 13 scholarships in basketball and 85 in football; 85/13 = 6.54). 333 divided by 6.54... this is similar to landing the #51 basketball player.
Crap, I forgot to talk about what I'm talking about. Ricky Smalling, a wide receiver from Brother Rice high school in Chicago, verbally committed to Lovie Smith this evening (as did Bolingbrook WR Kendall Smith, but we'll get to him in the next LLOUI). It's a huge verbal for many reasons, the biggest being that Lovie made a statement tonight: he can land the top players in Chicago.
OK, now that you know what we're talking about, let's give some context to "top player". As you know, I'm a huge fan of composite rankings when evaluating recruits. I'm a sucker for the RSCI in basketball and the 247 Composite rankings for football. Take the average of the four recruiting services and it gives you the ability to throw out the Russian judge and get a sense of what kind of player you're getting.
For Ricky Smalling, the composite numbers are very good. Smalling's 247 Composite score (.8859) would have been higher than any player in our 2016 or 2014 classes and would have ranked third in the 2015 class behind Gabe Megginson and Ke'Shawn Vaughn. In fact, if you look at the 247 Composite scores for every recruit this decade (the 2010 class through 2017), here's the ten highest scores:
1. Aaron Bailey .9277
2. Gabe Megginson .9182
3. Jon Davis .9169
4. Ke'Shawn Vaughn .8953
5. Wes Lunt .8892
6. Ricky Smalling .8859
7. Jihad Ward .8825
8. Dre Brown .8744
9. Joe Spencer .8739
10. Caleb Day .8722
So this is a significant verbal. But not just because he's a highly ranked (4-star on Scout) player from Chicago. He's also that AJ Jenkins-like receiver that this offense needs.
Here's some words I wrote in a mailbag post last week:
BUT, the offense has changed. When Paul Petrino was here, we were recruiting wide receivers like Darius Millines, Ryan Lankford, Jordan Frysinger – shorter, quicker wideouts. From the moment Bill Cubit took over as offensive coordinator, we started recruiting height at the WR position. I believe Dude K was the only WR recruit under 6 feet in that time period. Tyrin Stone-Davis (6′-3″), Geronimo Allison (6′-3″), Malik Turner (6′-2″), Sam Mays (6′-3″) – Cubit wanted to build an offense with tall receivers.
So now that McGee is bringing back that same offense Petrino ran, what is the role for the tall receiver? Honestly, I don’t know. When we last saw this offense, it was the shorter, quicker receivers (AJ Jenkins, Ryan Lankford, Darius Millines) who received all the attention. We just don’t know how McGee will use the taller, “stretch” guys.
Smalling, who is right around 6'-0" tall, fits that "shorter, quicker" receiver mold. The drag route to AJ Jenkins in 2011? That's now the drag route to Ricky Smalling in 2019. This scheme will likely be here for a long time. Garrick McGee already had his head coaching job (at UAB) and he left it to be the OC at Louisville. So when we're recruiting to scheme, we mean it. We found a guy who, on film, looks like AJ Jenkins in high school. And I think we'll use him the same way.
One more thing before we get to Tom Cruises. He can do this:
— Ricky#️⃣2️⃣ (@SuccessfulRicky) April 16, 2016
Cruises. Given that list above, and given how his game fits with the offense we're trying to run, I think it's clear that he's a four Cruiser. The highest ranked player last year was 3.5 Cruises. And Smalling is clearly a step above anyone in that class.
Ricky Smalling. Four Tom Cruises.