Looks Like University Of Illinois - Julian Pearl
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Some coaches run a "pro-set" offense in college - it's more NFL than it is NCAA. Some college coaches run a big, bad NFL defense. Lovie, I think, is trying to run an NFL personnel department. Let me try to explain what I mean before talking about the newest verbal, Julian Pearl.
Last spring I remember reading this article with a quote from some NFL Network guy. Here's what he said:
"It's not just going to be Lovie Smith, but it's being able to hire all those behind-the-scenes people," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "A lot of [Smith's coaches on staff] are former NFL scouts. In terms of setting up their recruiting, it's almost like setting up a draft board and really dialing in on the process. He'll need to be able to kind of build a personnel department, for lack of a better word."
That appears to be exactly how Lovie has gone about it. He doesn't have an assistant coach who is the "recruiting coordinator" (as we've seen with the last 4-5 Illini coaching staffs), he has a personnel department. With scouts and everything.
We've talked about this over the past year - that Lovie trusts his staff's evaluation process way more than we've seen in the past. There's a process, with the "personnel department" screening players through the position coach, then the coordinator, then the head coach. It's a slow, methodical approach to recruiting, very different from what we've seen in the past.
The result is a scenario where we've only offered 7 of the 15 highest-rated players in the state, something nearly unheard of in the past. (That number was 6 until yesterday when we offered Gavin McCabe.) In past seasons, I'd say we would offer 13 or 14 of the consensus top-15 players in the state (if not all 15). So this is quite the departure.
What's the reasoning? I'd say that it's almost certainly this: they trust their evaluations. They trust their process. They're not casting a wide net and trying to hit on 10% of their targets - they're focusing on specific players who they feel can be successful in specific roles.
I'll pause right here to say this: there's no guarantee that it will work. In all honesty, it could be a disaster. College football programs will usually pay attention to which kids are the highest recruited players and use that as "confirmation of consensus" - we like this kid, and everyone else seems to like him, so that must mean he's pretty good. That's the "wide net" we're currently seeing with PJ Fleck in Minnesota right now and it's working really well.
So there's a chance that this method is too insulated. Too NFL-like. As a kid I was a huge St. Louis Cardinals (football) fan, and that was a very insulated personnel department. In the 1987 NFL Draft they selected Kelly Stauffer - who likely wasn't going to go until the 2nd or 3rd round at the earliest - with the #6 overall pick. Draft analysts were dumbfounded, but the Cardinals front-office said that they trusted their evaluation and that was the player they wanted. (To which most responded "that was a player you could have had with your second round pick so take someone else in the first round and then take Stauffer".) Stauffer flamed out (never played a down with the Gridbirds due to a contract holdout and was shipped off to Seattle). All of that will be discussed in my book "I Grew Up Cheering For The Worst-Run Professional Football Team Of The 80's So I Was Prepared For 25 Years Of Illini Football Inteptitude". Forward by John Lee, the KICKER that the Cardinals selected with the #32 pick in the 1986 draft when most projected him to go undrafted OK I'll stop.
My point: going about recruiting this way can be bad. It can also be good. Jerry Kill and staff were excellent at player evaluations, building Minnesota with classes that were typically rated second-to-last or last in the Big Ten. That's not really what I'm expecting here - that Lovie will only chase 2-stars because he trusts his evaluations and doesn't want to chase the 4-stars. I'm just saying that if you can't get the top players to listen, a great personnel department can still fill the roster with talent.
Which brings us to Julian Pearl, a total and complete project recruit. The position we're recruiting him for - offensive tackle - isn't even a position he plays in high school. His high school flim shows very little blocking clips because he's a tight end/defensive end in high school. He doesn't have the burst to be a DE (or a TE) in college, but he might have the frame to boost him up to 310 and build a college offensive tackle.
I feel the need to emphasize this again - total project. This is a Fixer Upper recruit (with no assistance from Chip, Joanna, or any shiplap). They see an athletic, 6'-7" 240 lb frame which can add weight and envision what he might be once he adds 70 lbs. But since he doesn't have those 70 lbs yet, there's really no telling what kind of player he'll be once he adds the weight.
Honestly, it's difficult to even grade a recruit like this because there are maybe 8 clips of him blocking someone (as a tight end). And sometimes it's a tiny high school outside linebacker lined up off the edge. So this is 100% a body-projection recruit. They think that by the time they add the weight and strength, they can build a really good player.
So why take him now and not wait? I'm guessing it's because he had already committed to Northern Illinois several months ago. Sometimes you get the sense that you can flip a guy late - hold out until January, offer him then, he'll jump at the chance to move from the MAC to the Big Ten. Other times you're not so sure, and if you want to flip him, you need to strike quickly before he gets too engrained with the recruiting class at his MAC school. And yes, this would be a Flip or Flop scenario.
Which means I can't really go with very many Tom Cruises here. There's nothing to evaluate. We beat a MAC school for a project recruit, and just based on that, I settle on 1.5 Tom Cruises.