Camp Lovie XXVI: Mailbag 3

Aug 18, 2016
illini, illini-football
illini, illini-football

See, my eyes are already getting heavy. I say "I'm going to try to crank out three mailbag posts tonight" and at the beginning of #2 my eyes are already telling me to go to bed. Let's see if I can get through this without them closing on me.

@ALionEye Chayce Crouch update

-- Andrew (@AVSIllini) August 14, 2016

Short and to the point. I like it.

Of all of the quarterbacks, Crouch is easily the best fit for this offense. That’s not to say a stationary quarterback cannot run this offense – it can be (and is being) catered to a quarterback’s strengths (see what Garrick McGee did with this offense for Arkansas and Ryan Mallett). But for the way this offense is designed, it works best with a QB who can run a little bit. Just like we saw from Nathan Scheelhaase in 2010 and 2011.

There was a goalline drill a few days ago. Lunt ran a play with the ones, the defense shut down the two routes he was looking at, he threw it away. Then Crouch runs the same play with the twos, receiver covered, he takes off running and scores easily. I’ve seen him go 20 yards untouched when the defense doesn’t’ account for him.

Which is why a quarterback with legs is so important in college football. Don’t make me pull out my “if you’re playing with a statue quarterback in college, you’re playing 10 on 11” quote. When the defense has to account for you possibly taking off, the offense looks different.

Sounds great, right? Well, there’s a tiny bit more to quarterbacking than legs. Chayce Crouch is going to have to get more accurate throwing the football if he wants to win this job next year. It’s a two QB race now (after Peters and Fitzgerald transferred), and Jeff George Jr. is consistently out-throwing Crouch in practice. And George can run a little bit, although he’s nothing like Crouch.

So that’s how that race shapes up for 2017. Let’s say quarterbacking is broken down into head (decision making, vision), arm (arm strength, accuracy), and legs. Here’s how I’d handicap the battle next summer:

Head: Crouch 7.4, George Jr.7.6
Arm: Crouch 6.9, George Jr. 8.2
Legs: Crouch 8.9, George Jr. 7.1

So that’s Crouch with 23.2 and George Jr. 22.9. Too close to call at this point. Would depend on how much emphasis McGee puts on arm and accuracy, really.

@ALionEye would love to hear about what the secondary is starting to look like. Two big losses in Fej and V'Angelo, going to be an issue

-- Chris Vainisi (@CVainisi22) August 15, 2016

I watched a lot of the secondary at my Mailbag Practice. Here's my thoughts.

In his press conference on Sunday, Lovie was asked a question about the Tampa Two defense and if he has to make adjustments to it for the college game. Lovie bristled, seemingly because he's tired of people saying he runs a Tampa Two defense. His exact quote: "We're a gap control, single high, eight man front, man coverage defense". Let's concentrate on "single high" for a moment.

A single high safety means a center fielder. The free safety set up very deep in the center of the field while the strong safety has other responsibilities, sometimes pushed almost all the way to the line of scrimmage. Now, that's not the look you'll get on every play - there will be some plays with two deep safeties splitting the field - but that's how Lovie described his defense when asked about the Tampa Two.

Given that, we need to look at how the secondary players fit the scheme, so it's not as easy as "how can we replace V'Angelo and FEJ?"

The single high safety will be Taylor Barton. He makes the best reads, has the most experience, and will be in the right place almost all the time. That's what Lovie wants from the single high safety. So that's a really good fit for him (and Lovie mentions him all the time). And I've talked about Jaylen Dunlap at corner - I think he's another perfect fit for what Lovie wants to do (by far the most physical of any corner on the list).

So it comes down to getting comfortable at strong safety and the other cornerback spot. There are three unknowns on the defense (strongside linebacker, second corner, strong safety), and honestly, they're the only thing preventing me from saying "this defense is going to be really good, y'all". If TJ Neal hadn't transferred and if V'Angelo and FEJ were still here, I'd be over the moon about the D, but really, I've yet to see a Big Ten starter at any of those three positions. As in, I look at the defense and I see eight Big Ten starters and three "trying to learn the position" spots.

Sorry if that's a disappointing answer, but those are the three spots which will hold us back this fall. We really need light bulbs to come on for two seniors: Darius Mosely and Caleb Day. They hold the key.

@ALionEye 2nd String O-Line. Next 2-3 guys up if an injury occurs.

-- Travis Matthews (@PitmanTrustee) August 14, 2016

I talked about this a little bit in the depth chart post but right now I'll go with this:

Starters: Schmidt, Megginson, Spencer, Allegretti, DiLauro
6: Connor Brennan
7: Adam Solomon
8. Zach Heath
9. Jordan Fagan
10. Doug Kramer

If there were an injury outside (and there's not going to be because there's not going to be), I think Solomon is the tackle who comes in at strongside tackle (for both tackles - if it's Schmidt out then DiLauro slides over with Solomon replacing him and if it's DiLauro then Solomon replaces him.

If there were an injury inside (and there's not going to be because there's not going to be), I think Brennan comes in followed by Heath. There's a chance Heath could pass Brennan by the end of the year (Heath is rehabbing a torn ACL and is about ten months post-surgery and building towards 100%), but right now I think it's Brennan. If Spencer is out at center, Allegretti slides over (with Brennan at right guard) and if either guard goes out, Brennan slides in.

It will be interesting to see how many subs are used. Last year it was almost all starters all the time. Will Lovie & McGee sub freely in order to keep the starters fresh? Yet another thing to watch for during the first game.


illiniranger on August 19 @ 12:27 AM CDT

Great update on the defense thing. It seems a lot of teams are doing that now instead of the basic zone coverage stuff that was popular in the early to mid aughts

Bear8287 on August 19 @ 08:35 PM CDT

Hey Robert,

Could you fill in numbers for Lunt here too? [Note: you must give Lunt at least a 3.2 in Legs for him to even tie for the top position.]

Head: Crouch 7.4, George Jr.7.6 Arm: Crouch 6.9, George Jr. 8.2 Legs: Crouch 8.9, George Jr. 7.1 So that’s Crouch with 23.2 and George Jr. 22.9. Too close to call at this point. Would depend on how much emphasis McGee puts on arm and accuracy, really.

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