Looks Like University Of Illinois - Kendall Smith

Apr 28, 2016

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Perhaps the biggest question facing Lovie Smith when it comes to recruiting: can he end ABI? Can he turn the tide so that recruits coming out of Chicago are no longer headed Anywhere But Illinois? His first move, landing Smalling and Smith (LLC), suggests that he can.

History will probably be unkind to Bill Cubit when it comes to recruiting. I don't think people will remember the impossible task he faced (recruiting with a two year deal) - they'll only remember the recruiting numbers. Perhaps the most glaring of those numbers: using Rivals' list of the top 40 players in Illinois, the best player he signed in the state was ranked #35.

Now, there are some asterisks to that. #14 (Kentrail Moran) and #19 (Juwuane Parchman) had committed (under Beckman) but did not have the grades/test scores/transcripts to get in. And there were decommitments: #20 (Drake Spears), #30 (Trevour Simms), #31 (Joshua Black), and #32 (Amani Jones) all flipped to other schools. So what was at one point a decent in-state list turned into "the best player from Illinois to pick Illinois was #35".

Lovie's first chess move in his first class? Adding Ricky Smalling (#6 on Rivals, #7 on 247) and Kendall Smith (#14 on Rivals, #19 on 247). That, to me, is a very strong anti-ABI statement. Lovie hates ABI. #endABI

I covered Smalling yesterday; this is the Kendall Smith post. Smith is a "wide receiver" from Bolingbrook (traditional powerhouse, HS of Rob Bain and Aaron Bailey). I say "wide receiver" in quotes because when I watch his film, I don't see a wide receiver. And that's not an insult - I just want to put him on defense.

I need to be careful here because I'm not making some "I hear the coaches want to move him to defense" statement or anything. This is just me watching all of his film on Hudl (as I do for every recruit), seeing him run a route and catch a pass, and thinking "I'd rather see a kid like this defending that pass than catching it".

I can't really list any reasons why that's the case. Perhaps it's because the absolute best part of Smith's high school film is his blocking. When I see an athletic kid who is physical like that, I want him at corner or safety. Supo Sanni was like that (athletic WR in high school, safety in college). I see some Supo Sanni in this kid's film.

Here, take a look for yourself. Watch Ricky Smalling's film and I think you'll see a receiver:

Now watch Kendall Smith's film. Watch how he runs his routes, his frame, his physical nature - when I see that, I think "defense".

With any high school recruit, you're recruiting for what they'll be when they're 21, not what they look like when they're 17. It's all about projecting the future. With Smith, you're seeing an athletic kid with a strong frame who can probably add weight and keep his speed. Can I dream a little bit and make him a speedy outside linebacker in the future?

OK, I'm way ahead of myself. This kid will probably be a receiver his whole career and here I am going on and on about where I want him on defense. Let's just say it this way: When I'm making my personal list of recruits in the 2017 class, I'm putting Smith down as an "ATH". Here's what we've recruited so far.

Mike Epstein: Speedy, shifty tailback. Michigan offered this winter. Need to keep him from flipping.
Ricky Smalling: Quick WR, plus athlete. Will play early. Well suited for this new offense.
Kendall Smith: ATH. More of a project. Add weight and strength, see where he fits on the field in a few years.

With a kid like Smith, a lot depends on what kind of player he is once the weight and strength is added. Once he has filled out, do you have a wide receiver? Corner? Safety? Outside linebacker? Again, it's all about projecting what he'll be in three years.

OK, I think I've beaten this point to death. The main takeaway: in-state, school we want to be connected to, athletic project recruit. Yes, I would have loved to have landed his teammate (defensive end Izayah Green-May, going to Wisconsin), and yes, I still hate the optics of that (Wisconsin gets the superstar at Bolingbrook and we get the lower ranked guy), but there are many steps between the ABI of today and the "sorry, Lovie has the state locked down" of tomorrow. Let's just try to get there as soon as possible.

On to the Tom Cruises. I'm seeing this one right down the middle. Certainly an ATH project, but not like some of the 1.5 Cruise project recruits of the last class. Has potential, comes from a great program, the first recruit to go into the Lovie machine and come out all coached up as a redshirt junior ready to make a statement in the Big Ten. This one feels like a 2.5.

Kendall Smith - Two and one-half Tom Cruises



Groundhogday on April 28, 2016 @ 03:50 PM

Good call on your projection of Kendall Smith as a DB vs. Smalling as a WR. I remember reading that Smith was recruited as a DB, but can't seem to find it in writing anywhere. But I agree that he lacks the good hands and jitterbug quickness to be a top WR, but has the frame to grow into a big, athletic safety or perhaps even OLB.

It is great to see Lovie leading off with Chicago area talent, and establishing a presence in Illinois. We'll always need TX, CA and FL talent, but need to be able to hold our own at home. This makes an important statement.

DB50 on April 29, 2016 @ 02:24 PM

I disagree with your assessment of "lacks good hands and jitterbug quickness". His hands seem fine, especially on a couple plays where he attacked the ball at it's highest point taking it away from a defender. Quite honestly, his hands are probably better than half the current Illini receivers. As far as quickness, I see good acceleration with his first step and fluid hips on his juke moves he makes on defenders with good balance and power able to bounce off tackles. He's very physical on his blocks which is a big plus, some wide outs shy away from this. With all this, yes, I could see him in 2-3 yrs. being a solid Big corner or safety. Time will tell what plans Lovie has.

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