Roster Turnover On Steroids


Robert
Dec 05, 2017
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10 Comments

Last Tuesday I wrote a piece (a piece? a post? a story? article?) on the fairly quick roster turnover happening in the program. Zook's third year he started 14 Turner recruits. Beckman's third year he started 11 Zook recruits. Lovie's third year he'll start... 3 Beckman recruits.

Of course, when I wrote the article it said "four Beckman recruits". And then Pat Nelson announced his transfer. In fact, over the week, we learned that eight players were leaving the program. I think I wrote the article a week too soon.

The original Roster Turnover post was more or less a "Part II" itself - I had written my yearly day-after-the-season "next year's depth chart" post the day before, and it was in compiling that list that I realized how quickly the roster was changing. So maybe that's a good starting point here. Go through that original depth chart (I edited it as the first three players transferred, but I'll go back to the original names here to highlight the one walkon and eight scholarship players who are leaving):

OFFENSE
QB | Thomas (SO) | George Jr. (JR) | Rivers (FR)
RB | Epstein (SO) | Brown (JR) | Bonner (SO)
FB/BTE | A. Roberts (SR) | Walker (JR-walkon) | McGrew (SR)
TE | Dorsey (SO) | Crouch (SR) | Palmer (rs-SO)
Quick-T | Boyd (SO) | Megginson (JR) | Trainer (SO)
Quick-G | Palczewski (SO) | Martin (JR) | Myers (FR)
Center | Kramer (SO) | Gavin (rs-SO) | Stover (SO-walkon)
Strong-G | Allegretti (SR) | Solomon (JR) | Daniels (FR)
Strong-T | Lowe (SO) | Cerny (rs-SO) | Slaughter (FR)
WR-X | Meadors (SR transfer) | C. Green (SO) | Reams (JR)
WR-Z | Smalling (SO) | Thieman (JR) | Mays (SR)
WR-W | Dudek (SR) | Davis (JR) | Smith (SO)
DEFENSE | | |
WDE | Gay (SO) | Carney (SO) | Pate (rs-FR)
NT | Milan (JR) | Avery (FR) | K. Green (rs-FR)
3DT | Oliver (JR) | Jackson (JR) | Odenigbo (SR)
SDE | Roundtree (SO) | Woods (SO) | Adesanya (SR)
WLB | Hansen (rs-SO) | J. Jones (SR) | Knight (SO)
MLB | Watson (SR) | Harding (JR) | Shogbonyo (SO)
SLB | Phillips (SR) | Abercrombie (SO) | J. Williams (JR)
Nickel | Watkins (JR) | James (SR) | Bobak (SO)
CB | Hobbs (SO) | E. Jones (SO) | Martin (FR)
SS | Nelson (JR) | DeGroot (SO) | Clayton Jr. (SO)
FS | B. Williams (SO) | Green (JR) | Hylton (SR)
CB | Adams (SO) | Sumpter (JR) | Walker (FR)
SPECIALISTS | | |
Kicker | McLaughin (SR) | McCourt (rs-SO) |
Punter | Hayes (SO) | Baringer (rs-FR walkon) |
Long-snapper | Mills (SO) | Tabel (SO) |
Punt Return | Dudek (SR) | Hobbs (SO) | Davis (JR)
KO Return | Brown/Hobbs | C. Green/Davis |

The replacements for the two starters who are leaving seem fairly straightforward. Dele Harding (my guy!), who I believe might have won the job over the incumbent starter (Watson) anyway, becomes the starting middle linebacker and instead of three safeties (Williams, Green, and Nelson) we now have two. Which is completely and totally fine because Stanley Green never misses any snaps for any reason that comes to mind (<~sarcasm).

The rest seem to be departing right along the Lovie/Beckman dividing line. Lovie is starting the 2016 and (especially the) 2017 guys, so the 2014 and 2015 guys are bailing. Beckman's 2015 class in particular is now mostly gone. 24 players enrolled in the summer of 2015 - it's now December 2017 there are 11 players left.

What does this all mean? Another full recruiting class. And this might be a college football first. We have eight seniors, meaning eight spots are opening up for the next class... and we'll bring in 25 players. Which means there are 17 spots opening up from player departures - nine over the last few years (which is why we went into this season with 76 scholarship players instead of the max of 85) and these eight departures this week.

A quick reminder on those nine open spots this past year: Lovie maxed out his backdates in the 2016 class and brought in a full 2017 class (the max is 25, he could backdate one so he brought in 26) which left him with 81 scholarship players for the season (NCAA doesn't allow you to fill beyond 25 from one class, so he couldn't use those final four scholarships). Then Holcombe, Lee, and Watkins were dismissed from the team after their arrests and Nation and McGriff left, dropping the number from 81 to 76.

This means the 2018 class went from eight (seniors graduating) to 17 (open scholarships not used this past season) to 25 (eight players departed this past week). One of those spots will be filled by graduate transfer Shaedon Meadors, which means that the recruiting class will likely be 24 players.

And THAT means that Lovie, entering his third season without the benefit of a first-year recruiting class, on his roster of 85 scholarship players, will have:

  • 24 Tim Beckman recruits (Adesanya, Allegretti, Brown, Cerny, Corbin, Crouch, Davis, Dudek, Epstein, Gavin, George Jr, Hylton, Jackson, Martin, McGrew, McLaughlin, Milan, Palmer, Reams, Roberts, Solomon, Thieman, Watkins, J. Williams).
  • 12 Bill Cubit recruits (Clayton, S. Green, Hansen, Harding, B. Jones, E. Jones, Kramer, McCourt, Oliver, Shogbonyo, Sumpter, Trainer).
  • 49 Lovie recruits (24 in the 2017 class - Epstein was a Beckman recruit and Watkins was kicked off the team - plus the grad transfer Meadors and the 24 players to be signed by February 7th).

If we cross-reference that with next year's depth chart... hold on, let me do some quick math and fill the eight holes highlighted above with the players who will replace the guys transferring out.....

2018 two-deep (22 starters and 22 backups, not including kickers and punters):

  • 14 Tim Beckman recruits
  • 9 Bill Cubit recruits
  • 21 Lovie Smith recruits

Those numbers are really remarkable given that Lovie's recruits are only either true sophomores, redshirt freshmen, and true freshmen. But we've been over that a dozen times in the last few months. I'll only add that there are many Beckman/Cubit recruits on that two-deep who might be replaced by Lovie freshmen come August. For example, my second string offensive line is Trainer-Martin-Gavin-Solomon-Cerny (four Beckman recruits and a Cubit recruit). It's certainly possible that one, two, or even all four of Lovie's incoming 2018 offensive linemen (Myers, Slaughter, Pearl, and Daniels) pass those guys and find themselves on the second string. My point: those numbers could be 8 Beckman, 6 Cubit, and 30 Lovie by the start of the 2018 season.

Which is why I rebooted the "roster turnover" post to write all of this. With these transfers, things seem fairly clear: Zook got to the Rose Bowl playing mostly Turner recruits. Beckman got to the Heart Of Dallas Bowl playing mostly Zook recruits and jucos. Lovie will enter his third season down to maybe 20 inherited players he'll still be using (out of the 55 or so who find the field on Saturdays).

Why so many transfers? Because Lovie is taking the youngest team in college football and... somehow making it younger. This is not a rebuild - it's a complete and total reboot.

Here's hoping he knows what he's doing.

Comments

Illinimac68 on December 05 @ 04:40 PM CST

If Pearl ends up that high on the depth chart we're in trouble. I loved his play in high school as a defensive end but he needs to bulk up significantly to belong on the field as a B1G O-lineman.

Groundhogday on December 12 @ 10:39 AM CST

I doubt that Pearl plays OL next year (maybe TE or DE). But with Verdis Brown and Reuben Unije leaning toward Illinois, it is a fair bet that the only Beckman/Cubit OL to see the field will be Allegretti and Kramer.

HiggsBoson on December 05 @ 06:13 PM CST

Up to nine transfers so far? How many more should we expect? If it spreads to Lovie's own recruits, that would seem to be a sign of trouble. Recruiting certainly hasn't been at a level to compete in the B1G so far.

Bear8287 on December 06 @ 05:23 AM CST

I think I wrote the article a week too soon.

Yeah, that was kind of my point in my reply to your last Slapdash article.

Sorry if that came across as a bit harsh, but after your write up of the Marshall game on the 19th, there was zero, nothing on IlliniBoard for the Augustana game on the 22nd, Tyler then covered the North Carolina Central game with an article on the 25th and then for the Wake Forest game on the 28th? Nothing on the 29th. Nothing on the 30th. B1G play started on Dec. 1st and nothing on the Northwestern game or the start of B1G play. So very early on the morning of the 1st I put up the "Northwestern" post when it looked like the Illini were about to start B1G play and there would be no IlliniBoard coverage of 2 of the last 3 Illini basketball games and no mention of the start of conference play. Minutes after that you posted "Slapdash" and well the rest is history.

Expect your depth chart to continue to change if there's a class of 24 freshmen coming in. I mean if out of the 24 none of them can take away starting spots from some of the young starters then that recruiting class is a failure and it would be a really bad sign for the future of the program.

I watched the Wisconsin/OSU and Clemson/Miami games and was surprised at the number of freshmen that were on the field for those teams and making plays. Those are teams where it should be extremely hard to get on the field as a freshman. If those programs are recruiting incoming classes that can get onto the playing field, the Illini darn well better be able to as well, otherwise... it's not going to be pretty.

Clearly, I'm not "one of the 17". I enjoy reading the football coverage immensely, but once the Illini football season is over, it would be nice if there were at least as many basketball articles as there were football articles.

I'm still hopeful that the Illini basketball team is going find a way to get into the tourney this season and having the benefit of hindsight, it looks like the best shot the Illini have had for 5 seasons. The team is definitely playing an exciting style of basketball and hopefully it will get some coverage here.

Go Illini!

Sweetchuck13 on December 06 @ 09:22 AM CST

Blockquote Expect your depth chart to continue to change if there's a class of 24 freshmen coming in. Blockquote

Good point. This isn't based on actually looking at roster spots or anything, but I'll put an arbitrary over/under on 11 freshmen in the 2-deep next year. Over? Under?

Bear8287 on December 08 @ 10:24 AM CST

Somewhat depends on how you count I suppose. Robert's chart has 12 spots for offense, 12 for defense and 5 for special teams.

Even if you just take his 24 for O & D (so x2 for 2 deep = 48), there better be more than 11 freshmen in there. If they only take 1/4 that's 12 and at 1/3 that would be 16. I'd prefer to see it closer to 16 than 12. There aren't that many upperclassmen on Robert's chart.

NJJ87 on December 06 @ 02:46 PM CST

The decommittments have now started, with 3-star, in-state (Oswego East) DB Antwain Walker reopening his recruitment. This is silly hyperbole (hopefully) or an early view to the end, but I think the Lovie era will soon be viewed as a dumpster fire.

Douglascountyillinifan on December 06 @ 03:47 PM CST

Word on the street is that Mr. Walker couldn't make it through the UI admissions gauntlet. Too bad, because he was excited to be an Illini, based on his desire to begin in January.

jhwaddell on December 07 @ 07:38 AM CST

With Watkins gone, can't Lovie actually sign 26 and backdate one to last years class in place of him?

jdapisa on December 07 @ 06:53 PM CST

No, he can't because Hojo actually enrolled. After you enroll, it doesn't matter if you get kicked out or not - you still count against the 25.

My math doesn't add up to Robert's math though. We signed 26 (25 without the non-qualifier QB) and I'm pretty sure we could have backdated one of those early enrollees to 2016. That would leave us with one open slot to backdate this season.

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