Football Comings And Goings

Jan 21, 2018

There is a lot to talk about. We hired an offensive coordinator. We're now up to 15 players transferring since the final game. We hired a tight ends coach from the high school ranks. These should be three separate posts but why not just one big long ramble-y post?

Let's get the tight ends coach out of the way first and then you'll stop reading and I can just ramble on about the other stuff.

I Don't Like It

Lovie hired Trinity Catholic coach Cory Patterson on Friday. He did this, of course, because Trinity Catholic has, like, 7 four-stars in the next few classes. As you may have heard from me on Twitter, I do not like this hire. I spent the last seven months saying "please no" when his name came up, and I'm continuing that #stance today. I just don't like it. Here's why.

  1. When asked "why don't you want him in Champaign?" over the past seven months, my response has consistently been "because he can be more helpful in St. Louis". I want us to build relationships with high school coaches, get to the point where they trust sending their kids to Lovie, and then send those kids over a decade, not just "we hired him for access to his juniors and sophomores". Mizzou has built this kind of relationship with Darrin Sunkett at East St. Louis. He trusts that his kids will be taken care of in Columbia. It's a relationship that has paid off for them for more than a decade. THAT'S how I want us to recruit. The Bishop Dunne coach in Dallas trusts Andrew Hayes-Stoker? Let's keep that relationship strong and grab eight Bishop Dunne players the next decade, not just Avery and Myers.
  2. When we fired Paul Williams (mostly, I believe, for his failure to deliver recruits), I wanted to hire an experienced recruiter. Someone who knows the game and can get kids here for official visits so that Lovie can close them. We hired a high school coach for access to a single high school (and, perhaps, hopefully, access to a recruiting area), and I can't help but wonder if an experienced recruiter would have been better. Someone like Frisman Jackson, a guy that Baylor just hired as their WR coach on Friday. Jackson, who went to Western Illinois, played for the Browns for five years in the NFL. He was then the wide receivers coach at Western Illinois (while Thad Ward was the running backs coach), followed by stints as an assistant at Akron, Northern Illinois, NC State, and Temple (plus one year with the Tennessee Titans). He's from Chicago, went to Morgan Park, and could easily transition to tight ends coach in Champaign. That's the kind of guy I wanted to hire - someone who basically has Thad Ward's resume when he arrived in Champaign.
  3. I'm just not convinced that "high school recruiter" = "college recruiter" (although I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong). I've known about Patterson for a long time in St. Louis. Recruiting-wise, he makes people angry wherever he goes (in a good way). Full disclosure - he was once an assistant at the football program where my son played in high school, so while I've never had a conversation with him, I've known who he is and have followed his career since then (and no, there's no personal vendetta here). He's a guy who was connected. He could get kids from his old youth program (a powerhouse youth program, I might add) to pick a high school (in nearly the same way as he'll be asked to get high school kids to pick a college program). Trinity Catholic, a tiny, Tuscola-sized high school hired him to do the same at their high school (stop the flow of talented kids from the area who were going out to the suburbs to play for the big 6A schools), and it worked. He built a crazy collection of talent at a tiny high school. My concern, of course, is that this doesn't carry over from college to high school. Again, I want him to prove me wrong, but I fear that it won't. I fear we could have had a Frisman Jackson and instead hired a high school coach who might only deliver the lower-end of his high school roster.

So that's why I'm not a fan of this hire. That's why I see Trinity's four-star and five-star kids tweeting things like "#TheMovement to #Littyville?" (#TheMovement is how Patterson branded his build at Trinity Catholic), I get worried that we're all being fooled here. Those kids will consider us, even visit, but then do what top-100 kids normally do - go to Bama or Georgia or Ohio State and we're left with nothing to show for this hire (while Frisman Jackson is teeing-up six solid recruits from all over the country for Matt Rhule at Baylor). It's a gamble, and I'd rather not gamble.

(If I'm wrong about this, I never want to stop hearing about it from you. If I'm right about this, you won't hear one peep from me. I've never wanted to be more wrong.)

I Like It I Love It I Want Some More Of It

On the other hand, I'm a huge fan of the coordinator hire, Rod Smith. As you might have heard, I'm a tiny-bit obsessed with keeping schemes around so that the players you've been recruiting fit with the scheme. I can confidently say that this scheme - or at least the way he's describing his scheme - is a really good fit with the players we've been recruiting in 2017 and 2018.

My fear was something like Ron Turner. Loren Tate mentioned his name on the radio a few weeks ago, and we probably all had the same reaction: who would be the quarterback for that Turner scheme? Those 9 passes to the fullback in the flat every game - who do those go to? There's not a Carey Davis or a Jason Davis or a Jameel Cook anywhere on this roster - how long would it take us to recruit the other way for a scheme like that? Three years?

Fortunately, that's not what we're going to deal with. If Rod Smith is going to run the Rich Rodriguez offense here, then I believe we have the players for it (which can also be interpreted as "no excuses"). Ranger linked this video over on The Deuce of Rick Neuheisel explaining the RichRod offense. Go watch that and then I'll give you my thoughts here.

You can see these players running that offense, right? Let's just go with the starters on my current 2018 depth chart.

  • Cam Thomas doing that little read option with Mike Epstein, pulling the ball sometimes and handing it off sometimes - you can totally see that. Epstein is the perfect quick tailback for that kind of read-and-go run game.
  • Louis Dorsey as that guy on the wing (let's call him an H-Back) - he's probably the player Rod Smith will be the most excited about after the first spring practice, right? He's absolutely perfect for that role.
  • Wideouts would be Mikey Dudek, Ricky Smalling, and Carmoni Green (or perhaps the 5th-year transfer Shaedon Meadors). You can totally see Dudek getting that ball on the edge or Smalling catching the slant. Just need Cam Thomas to improve his accuracy (which, let's be honest, is a huge concern).
  • OL would be Boyd-Palcho-Kramer-Allegretti-Lowe. This is a bit of a concern here - Smith will probably ask his linemen to move around a little more and road-graders like Boyd and Lowe might not be the best fit. But guys like Palcho and Kramer should blossom in this scheme.

This is not to say that the offense will be fixed immediately. I still have nine sophomores starting on my depth chart (eight if Meadors starts). That's still crazy young. But, since I filter everything through October 12, 2019, I feel pretty good about where the offense will be by then.

THE FRESHMEN (are playing in front of us so we're going to transfer) FIFTEEN

The spring roster has been posted on the website so we now know the full list of players who have decided to move on: the ten we learned in December, plus Jeff George Jr. and Chayce Crouch, and now tight end Henry McGrew, cornerback Frank Sumpter V, and safety Harvey Clayton Jr.

Quick thoughts: I'm guessing that McGrew, a redshirt junior, might just graduate and move on with life (like what Chayce Crouch did this week). He was brought here to play Leo, we switched defense schemes, Lovie moved him to tight end, he just played there as a fourth-year player. My guess is that he'll get his degree and move on (just a guess). Sumpter is the type of cornerback that Beckman liked (short, shifty guys like V'Angelo Bentley or Darius Mosely) and Lovie seems to like taller, more physical corners (Nate Hobbs, Tony Adams). Clayton is similar - not exactly the type of safety that Lovie has been recruiting. So Sumpter and Clayton will head out to find a defense that fits their skill set.

Here's where those fifteen transfers (plus one walkon transfer) landed on my depth chart:

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)
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)
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 |

It's funny - I had a bet with Steve last year that this 2018 recruiting class would be under 20. After the 2016 season we only had eight scholarships available for the 2018 recruiting class. I figured it might grow to 13-15 or so with some attrition, but I didn't think it would get to 20.

It's now at 30. As in, there are 30 spots available (and we can only fill 25 of them per the NCAA cap on incoming players). It was eight after Lovie's first season and then:

  • Desmond Cain transferred to North Dakota State and Ke'Shawn Vaughn transferred to Vanderbilt last winter (up to 10)
  • Zarrian Holcombe, Darta Lee, and Hojo Watkins were kicked off the team (up to 13).
  • Tre Nation transferred to Austin Peay and MJ McGriff transferred to Akron (up to 15).
  • Ten players (Megginson, Thieman, Mays, Odenigbo, Adesanya, J. Jones, Watson, Abercrombie, James, and Nelson) transferred right after the 2017 season (up to 25).
  • Two quarterbacks off the roster this week (George Jr. and Crouch), so we're up to 27.
  • These three players weren't on the updated roster yesterday (McGrew, Sumpter, Clayton).

From 8 available... to 30. And we can only bring in 25.

Which means that the starting number for the 2019 recruiting class is now 14 recruits. Seven seniors, those two walkon scholarships given to fourth-year juniors (usually non-renewable), and five "carryover" spots because it looks like we'll go into the season with 80. Care to guess how many end up being in the class? I won't.

All told, it's very clear what's happening, at least to me. In every "coach, am I going to play?" conversation, Lovie has been honest with the guys he inherited. And then, this past season, he backed that up by only redshirting 3 of the 24 freshmen. The message to recruits: I need guys who fit my schemes and you're going to play immediately. The message to inherited players: I'm going to play the guys who fit my schemes.

Where does that leave each recruiting class? With insanely short numbers:

2014 class: 5 remaining (Dudek, Roberts, Hylton, and Allegretti, plus McLaughlin who walked on that year and is now on scholarship)
2015 class: 11 remaining (D. Brown, Corbin, Davis, Martin, Milan, Reams, Solomon, Watkins, J. Williams, plus B. Walker and J. Marchese who walked on that year and are now on scholarship)
2016 class: 14 remaining (Cerny, Gavin, S. Green, Hansen, Harding, Jackson, B. Jones, E. Jones, Kramer, McCourt, Oliver, Palmer, Shogbonyo, and Trainer)
2017 class: 25 remaining (it was 26 but Hojo Watkins was kicked off the team)
2018 class: will be 25

So Lovie will enter his third season with 50 of his own recruits, 14 remaining from the class that signed a month before he got the job, and 16 inherited players. And of those sixteen, three are walkons who Lovie put on scholarship. So less than 24 months after getting the job, there are 13 inherited scholarship players remaining.

That's... insane.


bkenny on January 21 @ 07:50 PM CST

We’ve seen where the floor is for this program. I’m good with a ceiling play (Patterson). It’s great to talk about delivering recruits for a decade, but Lovie’s already running short on time - we’re quite possibly looking at a third straight awful season. He doesn’t have a decade to build relationships and turn the program around. He needs an immediate influx of talent, and this is the best shot to get it. Push the big domino and see what happens.

By all accounts we were already in good shape with a lot of the Trinity kids, so this isn’t some Hail Mary play. We’re also recruiting Williams as a QB, which other programs aren’t commuting to do.

I don’t think we were going to find a higher ceiling play here. I guess that’s what it comes down to. I (and many others) are OK with a ceiling play on 1/10 assistants, whereas you’d rather have the floor play. I’m good taking a shot here. Risk/reward calculus is worth it.

Furthermore, no guarantee Jackson would have been “teeing up” recruits here either, at least with what we have to sell. Changing things up and taking risks is uncomfortable. We need to embrace being uncomfortable at this point. If we had won more than a couple BT games the past couple years and had highly ranked classes rolling in, maybe I’d feel differently. But we need to shoot our shot here with 10% of the assistants. I fail to see the giant potential downside here.

steveinseattle on January 21 @ 09:26 PM CST

Patterson is evidently wired in all over the St. Louis area. It won’t just be his old HS.

Let’s also understand something about CP: the guy can coach. He went something like 27-6 as a head coach in three years. The man must know something about football. He’s reportedly very charismatic also...what’s not to like?

Lovie is at the Show Me point. He needs players and he needs them now. The defense as he wants it will be ready in 2019. He needs players on O to go with it.

HiggsBoson on January 23 @ 02:38 PM CST

Has Lovie ever gone 27-6 as a head coach at any level? He's what, 5-19 at Illinois?

neale stoner on January 21 @ 09:47 PM CST

Do senior transfers count against the 25 man limit?

Robert on January 22 @ 07:34 AM CST

Yes they do. Prior to writing this I verified this with the DIA.

DB50 on January 22 @ 02:57 AM CST

I agree with the first two comments, I think the hire of Cory Patterson was a bold, inspired hire that will add a foreward thinking, charismatic person to Lovie’s staff. He is the “Dee Brown” of football in the StL area. Can he recruit? I don’t know but I like his upside! Plus, as steveinseattle points out, he seems to be a solid coach. This hire is, first and foremost, about recruiting. Illinois struck out in StL this year. To hire an energetic & connected coach to your staff is what they needed. Two area coaches, Lutheran North’s Carl Reed & Cardinal Ritter’s Brandon Gregory really liked the hire and intimated StL area would support it. Last, but not least, I think you will see more of Thad Ward in the Chicago area in the future. It’s where he’s connected & Illinois has struggled to get talent from.

uilaw71 on January 22 @ 07:08 AM CST

Could it be that the old saw, familiarity breeds contempt, is warping your perspective Robert? Those kids didn’t gravitate to Trinity because they like the academics. Just as Lovie didn’t forfeit his Texas contacts by going pro, by all accounts the STL coaching fraternity support Patterson’s decision.

Groundhogday on January 22 @ 10:59 AM CST

We just don't have enough information to judge on the Patterson hire. Is he a really bright guy who knows football, as well as a guy who has relationships with the top STL players the next few years? We have no way to judging that. Hopefully Lovie judged well, and he is more than a guy with ties to top players at one or two schools.

Efrem on January 22 @ 11:14 AM CST

Like all hires - whether or not hiring Patterson was good will certainly depend on the results. But I disagree with your take on Patterson for several reasons

1) The regular stuff wasn't working. We are so far behind (even before Lovie got here) that we needed to try something different to have a prayer of catching up to even the middle of the pack schools

A higher risk/higher reward - outside the standard box move makes sense. If Patterson gives us a hope of jump starting the major upgrade in talent we need - it's totally worth it. It has to work of course - but the standard stuff wasn't working here

2) I see your #1 and #3 above as basically the same thing. The reason we want him in Champaign is because he has the trust of the football community in STL, and as our 2018 class showed clearly - the rest of our staff really doesn't in any meaningful way

It's clear Patterson has the trust of both players and coaches in STL. One of the other bloggers talked to the other top coaches and tweeted some of their responses to his hiring. To a man, the coaches at the other top programs in STL were positive about Patterson, their trust in him and how well they thought he'd do getting players to IL.

As for your #3, it's certainly a concern. Does high school recruiting transfer to college, and more importantly to a really struggling program like ours? To me - recruiting (or sales) success anywhere is about having a good product to sell AND having the ability to build strong relationships with the decision makers/influencers.

Patterson clearly has the ability to make his product (Trinity) look a lot better than it was when he got there. "The Movement" branding totally worked based on the kids he got and their results. And just listening to the work he put in and the kids and other coaches gush about him - he can build those key relationships and trust too.

College recruiting will certainly be different for him - but in some very good ways as well as the challenging ones you seem keyed on. His access to resources will be far greater than it was at Trinity.

This is not a sure thing. And I think that's pretty clearly reflected in the fact that he got just a two year deal (for those key 2019 and 2020 classes). But the regular stuff wasn't working to differentiate us in key recruiting battles. We needed to do something different and bringing in a smart, capable guy with established trust in a key recruiting geo was a good play.

In short - we needed to take a risk, Patterson was a smart risk, but it certainly needs to work. I like the hire

mattcoldagelli on January 22 @ 01:05 PM CST

I guess I'm not sure we're watching the same program. We need literally any type of momentum right now - short-lived or otherwise. I mean, I would frankly be in favor of burning an AC spot on a "class grab"-type of hire in basketball right now, let alone football.

Advocating for a proven recruiter that can earn a decade's worth of results is great. It's the best possible result. But it's also a bit like telling a patient with a 3-year prognosis that if they just wait 6 years, the FDA will complete the clinical trials of that experimental drug to give you the best possible sense of the risk/reward.

Sweetchuck13 on January 22 @ 02:59 PM CST

Any rumors out there on the 10th assistant? Surely it'll be defense, but between Hardy and Phair, maybe there's some flexibility there to go for a more established "pure recruiter" for that spot along the lines of what Robert was hoping for.

For what it's worth, I really like both hires. Think Smith is a really solid choice for OC - glad we didn't get some NFL guy. And Patterson has the potential to be a great connection in STL - and if he doesn't work out, he's probably moving on in 2 years. Worth the gamble in my opinion.

iluvrt on January 22 @ 08:42 PM CST

Need to stop being 0 for the Big 10. I like this hire

HiggsBoson on January 23 @ 04:10 PM CST

Lovie's new stubbly beard makes him look like he's got a bottle of Mad Dog in a paper bag. Which help recruiting nowadays.

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