Looks Like University Of Illinois - Cameron Thomas

Jun 02, 2016
illini, lloui, top-story
illini, lloui, top-story

We recruit to the Petrino multiple offense for a few years and then Beckman arrives and installs a fly-sweep spread. We recruit Aaron Bailey for that... and then switch to the Cubit offense after one year.  We recruit four quarterbacks for the Cubit offense... and now switch back to McGee's Petrino multiple offense.  The first QB recruit for the McGee offense? Cameron Thomas.I know I hammer this point over and over but recruiting to scheme is everything in college football.  It's part of the reason why I started doing the Tom Cruise thing.  Some quarterback might be a four-star but if he can't run your scheme he's more or less reduced to a two-star.  A two-star offensive lineman who's undersized but can run?  He moves from a nobody recruit to a vital recruit when you switch to that zone blocking scheme while that four-star road grader no longer has a role.

So to truly do a recruiting evaluation, I believe you have to look at scheme fit. Someone like running back Tre Nation from Alabama in the incoming 2016 class?  He won the lottery when McGee's offense was announced.  From "our running backs are pretty much wide receivers in the backfield" under Cubit to "we want to pound the ball on third and one" under McGee.  Went from maybe a 2.5 Cruise recruit to a 3.5 Cruise recruit overnight.

I say that to emphasize that yes, I'm taking scheme into account when I do these rankings.  I boosted the Ricky Smalling ranking a bit because we absolutely need some shorter, shiftier wide receivers after Cubit spent a few years recruiting the tallest receivers he could find.  Over the winter I wasn't that excited about offensive tackle Eddy Fish because he just didn't fit the mold of the offensive line we had been trying to build - seemed like he was just a project. Now he might be another player on the coaching change "won the lottery" list.

So all of that helps Cameron Thomas.  The coaches said they were looking for athletic, dual threat quarterbacks and that's what they found.  Thomas, on film, looks exactly like Eddie McGee (like, exactly - same long strides and everything). And I think he might follow the same McGee path - if QB doesn't work out, maybe there's another position that could use an athlete.

The thing that hurts Cameron Thomas: his offer list.  As in, one offer, from Illinois.  As I've said before, I'm a big fan of camp breakout players - Joshua Black has no offers and then shows up at an Illinois satellite camp and six schools offer that day.  I'd rather have an undiscovered kid than a known kid who just didn't get the offers.

Unfortunately, Thomas probably falls in that second category.  He visited Central Michigan - they didn't offer.  He visited Western Michigan - they didn't offer.  He visited Iowa - they didn't offer.  He visited Minnesota (twice) - they didn't offer.  Yes, he's a much better fit for this offense than he would be for the Iowa offense.  So that makes sense.  Still, when Central Michigan doesn't pull the string, you have no choice but to think that this is a project recruit.

Project recruits can work out - Dude K had offers from two FCS schools and Illinois - but the chances of them becoming All-Big 10 players are simply much lower.  A five-star like Arrelious Benn?  A 92% chance he'll be an excellent college player.  A quarterback with zero offers besides Illinois despite multiple visits?  Sorry, but I have to put a player like that around a 20% chance.

On film, I do like what I see.  He looks exactly like freshman Eddie McGee when he had to come in to replace Juice during the Missouri game.  It's fairly impressive film because Thomas is often running for his life.  Marian Catholic was... not good last year (1-8).  And Thomas had to be a running QB because the defensive front seven was often in his face seconds after the snap.  I always try to factor in strength of team when watching film as well.  Some high school running backs can look like Barry Sanders when they're running behind a massive offensive line (but they're really a fringe recruit).  A QB with a bad line - gotta give him a break.

But still, even with all those breaks, this is still a project recruit.  He was the #1 target, and the QB the coaches focused on, and we landed him, so in the "trust the coaches" department, helmet stickers for everyone.  But given the offer thing and the "raw athlete" thing, I can't go very high with Tom Cruises.  I considered going 1.5 Cruises, but given the offensive fit (and the high school line struggles), I'll bump him to two.

Cameron Thomas - two Tom Cruises.



larue on June 02 @ 06:27 PM CDT

The guys at Scout (and they've said this publicly now, so I'm not giving away premium info :) ) say that Iowa and Minnesota were starting to show pretty strong interest in Thomas, and Illinois coaches thought they needed to make the offer if they wanted him.

dsboyce on June 03 @ 02:22 PM CDT

Lovie seemed pretty excited about the commitment. Until he's proven otherwise, I'm going trust his evaluation.

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