Looks Like University Of Illinois - Marquez Beason
Sunday afternoon. It was supposed to rain but there's heavy wet snowflakes falling outside my window. Just got back from brunch with my wife. Alpine Symphony in the background. Our best recruit in 12 years just verballed. Life is good today.
We needed something good, right? I mean, look at what we just went through. 2-10 football season, 0-9 in the Big Ten. 14-18 basketball season, 4-14 in the Big Ten. Right there on the cusp with major difference-maker football recruits like Dele Adeoye and Merlin Robertson yet they went elsewhere. Right there on the cusp with major difference-maker basketball recruits... you get the idea. I don't have to remind you.
So to land a Marquez Beason, I just don't know how to talk about it. We haven't eaten in months and would be willing to eat stale bread just to get something in our body - and some chef prepares us a five-course meal. What are we supposed to do with that? How do we even digest it?
Let's try to put this in context:
- As I tweeted yesterday, if I ranked all of the high school players to choose Illinois since I arrived on campus in 1991 I would go 1. Arrelious Benn 2. Eric Jefferson 3. Martez Wilson 4. Marquez Beason 5. Rashard Mendenhall. If you don't remember Jefferson, he was the post Rice & Hardy "we can put you in the NFL" recruit in the 1996 class who never made it past one semester (a semester where he redshirted with what at the time was described as a "nervous breakdown").
- The highest recruit to pick Illinois this decade was Aaron Bailey in the 2013 class. In the composite rankings, he was #173. At the time, using my patented 6.54 method (13 basketball scholarships, 85 football scholarships, 85/13=6.54, so divide the football player's ranking by 6.54 and you get the equivalent basketball ranking), I described how landing Aaron Bailey was like the basketball team landing the #27 recruit (more or less Ayo). Well, apply the same thinking to Beason (ranked #54 in the composite rankings) and his basketball equivalent is #8. Think about that. Think how you'd feel if Brad Underwood landed the #8 player in 2019. (Note: we haven't landed a top-10 player in basketball since the 1980's.)
- I think I missed the whole point with that last one. Our best recruit this entire decade was ranked #173. This recruit is ranked #54.
- Let's look at this in Big Ten West terms. Yes, Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan get recruits like this all the time, but how often does a Big Ten West school land one? The highest ranked player to pick a Big Ten West school last year was #139 (Adrian Martinez) who chose Nebraska. We just landed #54 and then picked up a bunch of Crystal Ball votes saying that #28 (Isaiah Williams) was going to pick Illinois as well. What is even happening?
- If we look at this just in terms of athletes (players rated by the services as an "ATH", meaning they could play quarterback, running back, wide receiver, cornerback, or safety in college), he's, uh, he's the best ATH we've ever landed ever? We've landed some great jumbo ATHs before (like Rejus at WR and Martez at linebacker), but we've never really landed a highly ranked, sought-by-everyone, quicker than he is fast than he is quick ATHLETE. How?
- Oh, his final four was Illinois, Texas A&M, LSU, and Ohio State. What?
I'll just get this out of the way because everyone is thinking it - how do we hang on to this kid until he can sign in December? If we go 2-10 again, how do we know he's not giving out CJ Fiedorowicz quotes ("I don't know what I was thinking when I committed to Illinois") and taking a bunch of official visits to LSU, Texas A&M, and Ohio State? This whole thing seems so too-good-to-be-true, and I don't really want to think about why it's true because I can't really come up with any good reason other than "Andrew Hayes-Stoker is a recruiting beast and needs a raise ASAP". Still, I'm going to be biting my nails for nine months.
OK, with that out of the way, where does he fit? For starters, I think we know our punt returner for the next four seasons. In 2018 it's Mikey Dudek in his senior year. In 2019, 2020, and 2021, it's Marquez Beason. When he drops back to return a punt against Michigan on October 12, 2019, I might pass out. And the only reason I'm not listing him as the punt returner in 2022 is because this is the type of athlete who only plays for three years and then heads off to the NFL.
Beyond that, I think he's headed for defense. Cornerback, most likely. This defense will play three corners a lot of the time, and this season those three corners will likely be Nate Hobbs, Tony Adams, and Cam Watkins. In 2019, all three of those return and Beason will probably supplant one of them at their starting spot. In 2020, Watkins graduates and it's Hobbs, Adams, and Beason. And then 2021 it's all Beason's show (partners TBD).
It's hard to put into words what kind of boost that is for this defense - to have a bona fide NFL talent in Lovie Smith's secondary. With what we've seen from guys like Bennett Williams and Nate Hobbs, I really do think that the secondary is now set. And I've already declared the defensive line as being "set". So all eyes are on linebacker.
One more note before Tom Cruises. Yes, his ranking will probably drop. He'll still make one of the All America games, he'll still likely be at events like The Opening finals (we never have players at those things), but when you pick Illinois, your ranking slides. It just does. Rejus Benn was a top-10 recruit and he slipped into the teens. Calvin Avery was #179 and he slipped to #216. It's just how the system works. Some players have great performances at all-star games and actually increase their ranking after picking Illinois (Terry Hawthorne and Gabe Megginson come to mind), but for the most part, picking Illinois means your ranking slips. LSU and Florida State fans pay the bills, so their recruits need to climb in the rankings.
So his ranking will probably drop lower than #54 by next February. But that won't mean anything. He's still our best recruit in 12 years. (You know, until Isaiah Williams The Second picks Illinois.)
Tom Cruises. No debate. For the first time ever when ranking a football recruit, it's five.
Marquez Beason - Five Tom Cruises