From Memory

Nov 07, 2017

This is just one long chain of posts now. I wrote a post on Sunday, and then someone's comment brought about Monday's post, and then a comment under that post spawned this post. Today's topic: how did we come to have the smallest roster of upperclassmen in the country?

Here was the question:

Sorry if has been reviewed before--but how did we get to 14 upperclassmen? Has anybody done a list of what happened to the recruits of 3 & 4 & 5 yrs ago? Must be quite an array of washouts, transfers, ineligibles. We've all seen the record number of freshmen playing. Has anyone looked at the complement--do we have the fewest upperclassmen on the roster in D-1?

14 upperclassmen refers to the current healthy 14 upperclassmen discussed in that post. We have 22 scholarship upperclassmen on the roster - 8 seniors and 14 juniors - but eight of them are currently injured. How did we get here? I can do this from memory, so I'll just go through the previous recruiting classes.

We'll start with the 2013 recruiting class. Had the entire class redshirted, they'd all be redshirt seniors right now. Nine of them played as true freshmen, so they all graduated last year (or transferred away). There were also five junior college players, so they all graduated in 2015. Christian DiLauro, Kendrick Foster, James Crawford, and Jaylen Dunlap remain on the roster, plus Nate Echard who was a walkon in that class but later earned a scholarship. A class should probably have more than six redshirt seniors four years later, but... 9 played as true freshmen, five jucos and:

  • Paul James transferred to juco and then to Auburn.
  • Darwyn Kelly transferred to Central Michigan
  • Jesse Chadwell had to retire from football due to an injury (hip injury I believe?)
  • Bryce Douglas transferred to Northern Iowa.
  • Merrick Jackson didn't qualify, went to juco, and ended up at Minnesota.
  • Miguel Hermosillo got drafted by the Angels and switched to baseball.

The 2014 class would then be providing most of the upperclassmen here (either true seniors or redshirt juniors). But it was a small class (only 18 scholarships available that year), and it was juco-heavy (six of the 18 were jucos and all have graduated by now). Remaining from that class are Malik Turner (the only true senior) plus Chayce Crouch, Nick Allegretti, Mikey Dudek, Tito Odenigbo, Tre Watson, Austin Roberts, Henry McGrew, Julian Hylton, and Chris James (all redshirt juniors). Chase McLaughlin is also a redshirt junior this year - like Echard, originally a walkon, now on scholarship. The missing players from that class:

  • Matt Domer didn't qualify and went to Bowling Green.
  • Peter Cvijanovic only lasted one season (out of football now? Diabetes related I think?)

So the first answer is "jucos". Had the 11 jucos above been high schoolers, that's theoretically 33 upperclassmen on this team, not 22. When you jump on the juco train like Tim Beckman did, it's hard to get off. (We're off.)

Then there's the 2015 class. Any freshman who played right away in 2015 would be a junior now.

  • Desmond Cain did, but he transferred to North Dakota State.
  • Ke'Shawn Vaughn did, but he transferred to Vanderbilt.
  • Jamal Milan did, but he got injured, took a medical redshirt, so he's now only a redshirt sophomore.

And THEN there's the lack of jucos to replace the jucos that I mentioned above. When you have all those junior college players graduating after the 2015 season, the best thing to do is replace them with Jucos in the 2016 class. We didn't - we turned to high schoolers and only brought in one juco (Ahmari Hayes). The same thing happened this last year. Several jucos graduated but we brought in 24 freshmen and only one juco (Del'Shawn Phillips). So those two hops off the juco train left us thin on upperclassmen.

Well, everything above left us thin on upperclassmen. Transfers, medical hardships, small class in 2014, two jucos in 2016 or 2017 after 18 the previous three years - it's the perfect storm of youthful football.

The interesting thing about hopping off the juco train though - you're thin on upperclassmen for a few years because you're replacing all of those graduating jucos with freshmen. But when those players grow older, you suddenly have this glut of upperclassmen that will need to balance itself out in the other direction.

Especially when you have a season where you play 21 true freshmen. We have those 21 players plus 11 redshirt freshmen on the roster. That means 32 seniors in 2020 if everyone sticks around. I mean, not everyone will stick around, but that's stlil going to be a massive senior class. 8 seniors this year, 14 next year, 18 in 2019, and then 32 in 2020. (It won't be 32, but still.)

OK, I think that covers it. Any questions?


Bear8287 on November 08 @ 04:42 AM CST

Thanks Robert. Where else are we going to find this kind of information? Nowhere that I know of.

(It won't be 32, but still.)

Yes, but still it could be > 25 which means unless some could be backdated, the Illini will likely be under the 85 scholarship limit again in the future. I suppose it wouldn't be too surprising if any of the 32 aren't productive and finding their way to playing time on the field that they might be "encouraged" to explore their playing options elsewhere.

neale stoner on November 08 @ 08:39 AM CST

Moral of the story: don’t begin a reliance on juco’s if it is hard to admit juco’s to your school. We cannot execute the Kansas State model.

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on November 08 @ 09:06 PM CST

This is an absolute truth. . .

212Daniel on November 08 @ 11:23 AM CST

Thanks much. Amazing memory. About what I imagined. 2nd part of Q-fewest? (obviously not D 1, my brain's already in BB, but FBS or P5?) I'm not going to tackle that research but IA has 41 upperclassmen; even IN with the coach switch has 36. Some may be walkons but shows the hill we're climbing

illiniranger on November 08 @ 11:59 AM CST

the concern i have, and you mention it all the time, is are we building a team or are we building a program? We should be bowl caliber in 2019 and 2020. We are potentially looking at a dip in 2021 depending on how recruiting shapes up (it's not looking great right now on an average *s basis for the 18 class.)

Eagle on November 08 @ 10:01 PM CST

I'm trying to remember why Bryce Doulas transferred. I thought he was injured.

Bear8287 on November 08 @ 10:37 PM CST

I actually thought that his injury was severe enough to end his playing days. I didn't even know that he had transferred.

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