Looks Like University Of Illinois - Delshawn Phillips
First off, can we just give him the #6 jersey? Terrorizing juco defender named Phillips has a huge senior season and gets selected first team All Big Ten and then hands his #6 jersey to a terrorizing juco defender named Phillips. Somebody make that happen.
Let's start with need. Any time you bring in a junior college player, you're doing so to fill an immediate need. What's the need? Let's look at the linebackers in the three-deep I just put together a few weeks ago:
Weakside LB: Julian Jones (JR) / Jake Hansen (SO) / Ayo Shogbonyo (rs-FR)
Middle LB: Tre Watson (JR) / Christion Abercrombie (rs-FR) / Jimmy Marchese (SO-walkon)
Strongside LB: Dele Harding (SO) / Justice Williams (rs-SO) / Marc Mondesir (FR)
The only known entity there is Tre Watson. Watson grabbed a starting linebacker spot last year and ran with it. After clearing 100 tackles on the season, I think you can write him in (in ink) for the next two seasons.
But after Tre it's cloudy. Four of those guys (Jones, Harding, Hansen, and Williams) all started at least one game this past fall. But none of them really emerged as a set-in-stone player for future rotations (which isn't a big deal - they're all first or second-year players).
I think that adding Phillips gives us a second known. This is a really big recruiting get - he's a four-star on Scout and has the highest 3-star rating you can get on 247. His junior college team just won the juco national championship (with a touchdown in the final 30 seconds) and he led the team in tackles that game, so this is a kid who has excelled at the highest levels of juco.
So I think you plug him into the starting lineup next to Watson and then use those other four to A) find a starter on the strongside, and B) provide depth at all positions. Tre Watson played some Mike and a lot of Sam in training camp last summer before eventually settling at Will, so the coaches won't hesitate to try their linebackers at all of the positions.
My guess: Watson and Phillips are the starters at Mike and Will. I had penciled-in Watson as the Mike next year (quarterback of the defense), but it's possible that Phillips comes in and plays Mike while Watson stays out at Will. On the strongside, I'll guess that it's a battle between Jones, Harding, and Williams, with Hansen maybe being the backup Mike. Let's keep Watson at Will, put Phillips at Mike, and go with a two-deep like this:
WLB: Tre Watson / Justice Williams
MLB: Delshawn Phillips / Jake Hansen
SLB: Dele Harding / Julian Jones
That's still pretty young (no seniors, three juniors, three sophomores), but that sets up as a fairly solid linebacking corps for 2018. 2017 might be a bit of a struggle, but give them all a full year and 2018 looks good.
Which reminds me of 2006/2007 (no, I'm not predicting a Rose Bowl in 2018 - stay with me). In 2006 we brought in a junior college linebacker (Antonio Steele) and plugged him in next to J Leman. In 2006, there were some bumps as they got used to playing next to each other. In 2007, they were fantastic together. Steele is way up there on the "all-time under-appreciated Illini" list.
The hope here is that Phillips provides the same juco boost that Steele did. First year might be a bit of an adjustment, but watch out that second year.
On film, Phillips looks great. He kicks off his highlight this way, which was fun:
Knock down the guy sneaking out for the screen (can you do that?), and then, when the quarterback panics not knowing who to throw to, go run him down too. And punch the ball out. Points off for not scooping up the ball, running it back, and kicking the extra point though.
All in all, this is another great pickup. As I wrote yesterday, we're right on the edge of pulling this off (and right on the edge of it falling apart). This moves us to #11 in the Big Ten (still with the least number of recruits) in the composite rankings. What would happen if we added, say, four players who we're "expected" to land in WR Jeff Thomas from East St. Louis, DE Owen Carney from Florida, OL Howard Watkins from Ohio, and WR Reggie Roberson from Texas? I used 247's "class calculator" to add those four players to our recruiting class, and here's what the Big Ten West recruiting rankings would look like:
1. Illinois 184.71 points
2. Nebraska 184.29
3. Northwestern 177.73
4. Wisconsin 175.36
5. Iowa 169.54
6. Minnesota 147.68
7. Purdue 138.01
Yes, that's dreaming a little bit. And Nebraska could add one of the four-stars they're close to getting and push further ahead. Or we could have decommits. Or a thousand other scenarios. My point: we're close. We keep adding higher-ranked three stars. Going by the composite point value, we now have five players in this class who would rank ahead of any player we landed last year. We're landing quality, Big Ten players. And I hope it continues.
Tom Cruises: I'm going to have to pull out one of my specialty Cruises here. Personally, I think Phillips is the fourth best player in this class behind Ricky Smalling, Larry Boyd, and Olalere Oladipo. I gave all of those players four Cruises. I also gave out several 3.5 Cruises, and I think Phillips is better than that set of players. So I'm putting him in the middle of all that. Delshawn Phillips - 3.75 Tom Cruises.