The 90 Illini - 65 ~ 61

Jul 09, 2017

Back to back 90i posts! I swear I’m going to stay on track this year, so typing up ten of these over a couple days gets me back on the lead lap. So let’s keep digging into The 90 Most Important Illini Players For The 2017 Season with the players I ranked 65 to 61.

65. Alex Palczewski

Offensive Lineman
6’-6”, 285 lbs.
Freshman (on scholarship, 5 years to play 4)
Prospect High School / Mount Prospect, Illinois

What I Know About Him

I’ve seen him referred to as “Palcho” or “Palch” on Twitter, so I think we have a nickname we can run with so we won’t butcher his last name. “I mean, it feels like the 2019 offensive line will be Solomon-Boyd-Kramer-Megs-Palcho, don’t you think?” Stuff like that.

Palch was a senior breakout player that we added in this last class. A year ago today, he wasn’t being recruited by anyone. Wasn’t on any lists, had missed a year because of a neck injury, didn’t have junior film and wasn’t able to camp - nothing. Then he has a strong senior year in high school, gets the offers from Illinois, Vanderbilt, and Syracuse, and picks Illinois.

What I Expect From Him

After the departure of Darta Lee and Howard Watkins (after their arrest this spring), the offensive line is two players thinner. Which means that some of the freshmen – either some redshirt freshmen or true freshmen – are going to have to play. Will Palch be one of those guys? (Yeah, I’m forcing it a little.)

There are two seniors (DiLauro and Fagan), one junior (Allegretti), and three sophomores (Gabe Megginson, Adam Solomon, and Zeke Martin who just flipped back to OL from DL). So at least one freshman will play, maybe two, possibly three. In an ideal situation, Palczewski would redshirt, add some weight, and begin to learn true offensive tackle technique. But this season is not an ideal situation, so he might go from “didn’t play high school football his junior year” to “plays Big Ten football as a true freshman”.

64. Lere Oladipo

Defensive End
6’-3”, 265 lbs.
Freshman (on scholarship, 5 years to play 4)
Huntley High School / Chicago, Illinois

What I Know About Him

I know I was scared to death twice during his recruitment. First, when he visited Michigan State in the early summer, got an offer, and a bunch of 247 Crystal Ball votes flipped MSU’s way. “Well, we lost another Illinois defensive lineman to Michigan State”, I said. But he didn’t pick MSU.

Then he picked Illinois in August. But at the time, he said he was still going to visit Penn State that fall. Which he did, during their White Out where they beat Ohio State and put themselves in position to win the Big Ten. There was a photo on some Penn State side showing him walking across the field with several Penn State four-star commits basking in the glow of beating Ohio State. I was scared to death that he’d announce he was flipping to Penn State that following week… but it never happened and he picked Illinois. A nice change for me – all those fears usually came true.

What I Expect From Him

There’s a continuum on the defensive line. The most mobile guy with the quickest burst off the snap goes to right end (weakside defensive end). The second most agile guy (but maybe not all that immovable) goes to strongside defensive end (where he’ll have to face a lot of double-teams from the tight end). Next most mobile guy (but pretty immovable) goes to 3-technique defensive tackle. And then the most immovable guy goes to nose guard/nose tackle/shade/guy who clogs up the middle on every play. (And when you’re both immovable AND mobile, you’re Corey Liuget and you probably make the ProBowl soon.)

If I were to line up the seven defensive linemen on that continuum (from most likely to be a right end to most likely to be a nose tackle) I would line them up in this order: Isaiah Gay, Bobby Roundtree, Owen Carney, Lere Oladipo, Deon Pate, Jamal Woods, Kendrick Green. None of those players are destined to end up at nose tackle I don’t think (unless Woods or Green really bulk up), but of we’re talking WDE, SDE, 3DT, I’d say that’s the order. Which means that Oladipo is likely slotted right there at Strongside Defensive End. With a chance that he eventually bulks up and goes inside.

63. Christion Abercrombie

6’-1”, 225 lbs.
Redshirt Freshman (on scholarship, 4 years to play 4)
Westlake High School / Atlanta, Georgia

What I Know About Him

He’s from Westlake High School in Atlanta (Cam Newton, Pacman Jones), so the former coaching staff turned to Westlake to find two linebackers – junior Julian Jones and redshirt freshman Abercrombie. Actually, Beckman landed Jones; Cubit landed Abercrombie.

Which means that Abercrombie is part of that large 2016 Cubit linebacking class (Dele Harding, Jake Hanson, Ayo Shogbonyo, Abercrombie). Lovie only brought in two linebackers in his first class, and one of those guys was a juco, which means Lovie is likely going to lean on some of these 2016 linebackers in the future.

What I Expect From Him

I feel like the rotation of six linebackers is fairly set. Tre Watson returns to his starting role, DelShawn Phillips arrives as a juco ready to play right away, two guys from the 2015 class will factor in heavily (Julian Jones and Justice Williams), and the two guys who played as true freshmen last year (Dele Harding and Justice Williams) will probably contribute a lot.

So that leaves me to wonder where the other guys (Abercrombie, Shogbonyo, Marc Mondesir) will factor in. Of those three, I think Abercrombie might contribute the most, perhaps on special teams. We really need to populate these coverage teams with athletes, and the best way for a redshirt freshman linebacker to make an impression on the coaching staff is to make a few big plays on some return. So put me down for that as my Abercrombie expectations – make a name for himself on special teams during this redshirt freshman year.

62. Nate Hobbs

Defensive Back
6’-0”, 180 lbs.
Freshman (on scholarship, 5 years to play 4)
Male High School / Louisville, Kentucky

What I Know About Him

This evaluation-heavy recruiting department headed up by James Kirkland will probably do this a lot: watch a bunch of senior-year film on players from across the country and try to find some gems who are committed to Group Of Five schools. That was the process for Hobbs. He was a Western Kentucky commit before having a big senior season, getting an Illinois offer, and flipping to the Big Ten.

Now, every Illini coaching staff has done this in the past. “Wait until you see this kid we flipped from Akron”… and then he gets here and we see why he was headed to Akron. My point is that Lovie reorganized his recruiting staff after only nine months to put even more emphasis on evaluation – it’s very NFL Player Personnel department where film evals rule all. Through that process, Lovie found a cornerback in Louisville who he thinks is ready for Big Ten football.

What I Expect From Him

I should note that it wasn’t just Lovie. I think it was Allen Trieu with Scout who looked at that senior film and raved about Hobbs, ranking him as the #41 cornerback nationally (the top-38 were four stars and above, so he thought quite highly of him). With our needs at the cornerback position (beyond Jaylen Dunlap, it’s pretty much wide open going into this fall), Hobbs is being brought in to compete for playing time right away.

And he’s a V’Angelo Bentley-type of cornerback, meaning he’s the shorter, quicker type who might also return punts. Which is why I’ve moved him to the upper 60’s on my list instead of down in the 70’s and 80’s with his classmates. We have a need, and there’s a chance he might start to fill it immediately.

61. Harvey Clayton Jr.

Defensive Back
6’-2”, 215 lbs.
Redshirt Freshman (on scholarship, 4 years to play 4)
Coral Reef High School / Miami, Florida

What I Know About Him

His father, Harvey Sr., played at Florida State and then spent five years in the NFL with the Steelers. He didn’t have a ton of offers in high school – the way I remember it his Louisville offer had pretty much expired by that January (they filled up at defensive back), so he was mostly down to Illinois and Temple – but that January was Bill Cubit piecing together a class (who I dubbed “The Misfits”) and Clayton was one guy that jumped on board.

What I Expect From Him

Freshmen defensive backs usually bounce around at different positions so that the coaches can get a good look at them in different situations, and after some bouncing around I’m pretty sure Clayton settled at safety last year. But Lovie also has that nickel cornerback position which is completely wide open at this point, so there’s a chance Clayton could end up there.

More or less, he’s at the same spot as Charlie Abercrombie above, just with less “knowns” in front of him. He’s now a redshirt freshman, recruited by the interim coach. The new coach just signed his first recruiting class with several of “his” players at the position. So it will be a very important season as the redshirt freshman attempts to make a name for himself. The best place to stick out as a redshirt freshman? Special Teams.


Jacob on July 09 @ 04:58 PM CDT

Not to be that guy but you have Justice Williams listed twice under Abercrombie instead of Jake Hansen

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