The 90 Illini - 75 ~ 71


Robert
Jun 23, 2017
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Excited to start writing about (player name) from (city name). A certain watch company is helping me get started with this fancy (team name) watch. Here are the nominees for 75th through 71st most-important Illini football players in the 2017 season.

75. Kendall Smith

Wide Receiver
6'-2", 170 lbs
Freshman (on scholarship, 5 years to play 4)
Bolingbrook High School / Bolingbrook, Illinois

What I Know About Him

Of the three incoming freshman receivers, he's the least known. So much so that I'm not sure we can call him a receiver yet. Feels like he might go through the "is he a wideout? safety? cornerback?" ringer in the first few years. Similar to Trenard Davis (who is currently an emergency quarterback).

He's from Bolingbrook, which is a high school where we've always tried to make a connection. Perhaps he can be the start of something there. (Or perhaps Aaron Bailey and Rob Bain already started it.)

What I Expect From Him

I'm not sure we'll extend beyond a rotation of six receivers. And those receivers, at least in my mind, seem to be fairly set: Malik Turner, Mikey Dudek, Sam Mays, Dominic Thieman, Carmoni Green, Ricky Smalling. That's a total guess on the last two - they both arrive as freshmen just like Smith, so there's a chance Smith might be better than them even though he was ranked behind them. But my best guess is that they all play while Smith redshirts.

And as he redshirts, do some experimenting. Is he a wide receiver? A safety? A defensive back? Settle on his position by this time next year.

74. Bobby Walker

Tight End/Long Snapper
6'-4", 230 lbs.
Sophomore (walkon, 3 years to play 3)
Loyola Academy / Golf, Illinois

What I Know About Him

Yes, tight end/long snapper. I think his long-snapping days are behind him and he's full-on tight end at this point, but since our long-snapper left and it's a competition between a bunch of walkons at this point, I can't rule out that Walker might be our long-snapper this fall.

Most likely, though, he works his way into the tight end rotation. There are many facets to that. Primarily a blocker? Maybe even more of a fullback blocker (Nate Echard's role)? Or, since we graduated three seniors, might he try to slide in there in a conventional tight end role?

What I Expect From Him

Oops I did it again. I've done this in The 90 Illini for years. I get to the "what I know about him" part and I start describing "what I expect from him". So really, I should just copy/paste all the stuff above down here and then go fill in the "what I know about him" part.

But what's fun about that? I'll just keep typing. There's a long line of walkons who end up filling a blocker role. Eddie Viliunas went from walkon WB to that role. Nate Echard went from walkon linebacker to that role (and earned a scholarship). Perhaps Bobby Walker is next in that line. Tight end? Long snapper? No, guy who blocks people.

73. Bennett Williams

Safety
5'-11", 190 lbs.
Freshman (on scholarship, 5 years to play 4)
St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High School / Watsonville, California

What I Know About Him

I mean, that high school is a mouthful, right? St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High School. "Where do you go to high school?" "Oh, I go to SFCCCHS."

"Give me an S." "S!"
"Give me an F." "F!"
"Give me a C." "C!"
"Give me another C." "C!"
"Give me yet another C". "Really?"

Bennett Williams' dad played with Hardy Nickerson at Cal and that was our "in" so we brought in Williams to perhaps play the free safety role in our defensive backfield.

What I Expect From Him

We're still in the 70's. I expect a redshirt. There are only three safety spots which are "filled" at this point (Stanley Green, Pat Nelson, Julian Hylton), so there's a chance that Williams could fill that fourth safety role as a true freshman. And, as my boy Memph reminded me yesterday, Stanley Green has to sit out the first half of the Ball State game because of his targeting call against Northwestern, so if Nelson and Hylton start, we have to find a third and fourth guy.

My guess is that we find those guys on the roster of redshirt freshmen (guys like Harvey Clayton) and don't turn to the true freshmen just yet. So put me down for Williams redshirting and learning the defense. He'll play that single-high safety, deep center field role, so there's a lot of flim to learn because every play is about a dozen reads at that position.

72. Brandon Jones

Tight End
6'-5", 240 lbs.
Redshirt Freshman (on scholarship, 4 years to play 4)
Hickman High School / Columbia, Missouri

What I Know About Him

He's one of two players I've ever given a one Tom Cruise rating (the other was Peter Cvijanovic). Man, why do I have to start out like that? "Hey, everyone, I ranked this kid REALLY low on my list". OK, let's try this another way.

His father was the running backs coach at Missouri for 15 years under Gary Pinkel. He wasn't retained when Pinkel left and Barry Odom took over, so I believe he's now at Central Methodist in Missouri. Brandon's brother plays at Missouri, but when a Missouri offer never came or him, he jumped on the Illini offer. (And he did so quickly - Jones is the one who committed to Cubit less than two weeks after Beckman was fired and Cubit took over as interim.)

What I Expect From Him

Last year he was at defensive end. This year he's at tight end. So in a way, he's completely starting over. He was held out of practice this spring (I can't remember what the injury was), so now he's headed into training camp with a new position he's yet to practice at.

Which puts him more or less with the incoming freshmen. A chance to get on the field, but more than likely, it will take the full year to teach him the position. Starting next summer, he can start to compete for playing time.

71. Vederian Lowe

Offensive Lineman
6'-4", 340 lbs.
Freshman (on scholarship, 5 years to play 4)
Auburn High School / Rockford, Illinois

What I Know About Him

He's a massive human person. When I saw him at some recruiting event, I swear he was 375 lbs. And not really a fat 375, just a massive 375. I feel like you're going to look down at the sideline this fall and say "wow, who is number 79??"

The question, to me - where will the coaches play him and what weight do they want him at? He's likely a guard, so do they want him at 325ish? Add even more weight and toss him out there as a 350 lb guard?

What I Expect From Him

I think he redshirts, but with the departure of Howard Watkins (who had enrolled early and was the most likely of the freshmen to be ready game 1), there's a chance Lowe will be needed. If we play eight linemen this year, I'd say DiLauro, Allegretti, Megginson, Solomon, Fagan, Kramer are locks, with Boyd being the next most-likely. Which leaves a battle between some of the redshirt freshmen (Gavin and Cerny) and the other two incoming freshmen (Palczewski and Lowe) to see who might make the rotation.

My guess - it's one of the redshirt freshmen, so both Palczewski and Lowe can take the full year to get acclimated to the system (and get bigger and stronger).

Well, stronger.

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