Mar 21, 2018

People have reached out via Twitter and email asking the same question: what would an Isaiah Williams verbal on Friday mean for Illinois football? I don't like talking about things before they happen, but I do think I can add some context here.

First off, for those who don't obsess over recruiting, what am I talking about? Isaiah Williams - no, not Isiah "Juice" Williams, a different top-100 high school quarterback named Isaiah Williams - tweeted "Friday....{clapperboard emoji}". According to those who speak emoji, this means he's making his choice on Friday. And because his last three visits were an unofficial to Illinois in October, a team visit to Champaign in February, and another visit to Illinois last Friday, it seems fairly obvious which team he will be choosing. That, and we hired his high school coach. And his Crystal Ball is 80% Illinois. Just a few tea leaves pointing our way.

As I said at the beginning, I don't want to write a "he's totally coming here - what does this mean?" post. That's called a Looks Like University Of Illinois post, and that comes if and when he chooses Illinois on Friday. But since I just tweeted "it's simple - Marquez Beason is one of the best players to EVER choose Illinois" a few weeks ago when Beason committed, what does it mean if we land someone ranked even higher later in the same month?

Well, it would mean that in the rankings era (2000 to present, when most all recruiting rankings are archived on the internet), two of the top 6 players to choose Illinois in those 20 years would have happened in March 2018. March 2018... when were coming off a 5-19 start for the head coach and a 36-63 decade. Two recruits in the top 54... we'd be reaching unprecedented recruiting territory for moribund programs like Illinois. All of the other losing programs would gather around us at the convention just to hear us tell the story.

As I texted a friend last night, when you use my 6.54 formula (13 basketball recruits, 85 football recruits, 85/13=6.54, take a football player's ranking and divide it by 6.54 to get the corresponding basketball ranking), this would be like Rutgers basketball landing the #4 and the #8 player in the 2019 recruiting class. Your reaction would be "what in the... HOW?", right? Well, what in the... HOW?

(...would be my reaction on Friday if this were to happen.)

It would also set us up with serious recruiting momentum. One top-100 guy like Beason is a bit tenuous. We'd be one decommittment away from falling right back to the bottom. But if you add two of those guys, and if others jump on board soon after - Crystal Ball picks today for Fabian McCray (Iowa State, Purdue, Cincy offers so far) and Ira Henry (Oklahoma, Florida, Nebraska offers so far) - then you have some serious momentum. A call to Bobby Roundtree's former teammate at Largo HS in Florida (Jaquaze Sorrells, a defensive lineman ranked in the top-100) doesn't seem so silly. You can really shoot for the moon at that point.

Which has all led to this question being asked: "is this the turning point?" As in, is this the moment where this whole thing starts to turn around?

Well, no. That's not really how college football works. It's how college basketball works - if Rutgers did add the #4 and #8 players, expect Rutgers to rocket into Big Ten contention next year when they add those two hypothetical players to Corey Sanders. But for football, that's not really how it goes.

Football, to me, is about shoring up every position. When you have a weak spot - a defensive line that cannot hold up against the run, a quarterback and receivers who cannot get the passing game going - then you're sunk. Opposing coordinators will pick you apart at that weak point for 60 minutes. Well, for 30 minutes. Actually, 39 minutes because the opposing offensive coordinator will see your inability to hold up against the run and just pound and pound the running plays until you're tired and out of subs and they'll just keep pounding and pounding the run game and it doesn't matter that you landed a great quarterback and cornerback because they're just hammering and hammering the run and keeping the ball for 40 of the 60 minutes and there's nothing you can do about it.

It doesn't have to be run defense. When you can't establish a run game or rely on your passing game (see: Illinois Football 2017) then it's over. We could land three future Pro Bowlers on the defense and it wouldn't really matter. You have to land talent at every position (and I mean every position, including punter and blocking tight end) or else you're in trouble. Football recruiting is about making sure every position is filled. With talent.

Now, yes, once you do that, then landing the #28 player in the country who can play Quarterback (or, if that doesn't work out, like 7 other positions on the field) is massively important. Looking at future rosters, the big concerns for me are linebacker and quarterback. So if Williams is really a quarterback (most every other school is recruiting him as an ATH due to the fact that he's 5'-10" and they want taller quarterbacks), then that's a massive addition. Go watch film of Khalil Tate running this Rod Smith offense at Arizona if you want to get an idea of what you might see from Williams. It's wildest dreams-level stuff. But it's still just one player of 85.

So let's put this all together into one big TL;DR (too long; didn't read):

College football is about filling gaps at every position. And Williams would fill a massive gap. But perhaps more importantly, he might build the recruiting momentum high enough that we could use the 2019 class to fill every remaining gap we have. Do that, and we're on our way.

And on October 12, 2019, with Beason returning punts and Williams running a wildcat package as a true freshman, dream the biggest dream you can dream.

(You know, if Williams were to pick Illinois on Friday.)


PapaDels4me on March 21 @ 10:08 AM CDT

". . .dream the biggest dream you can dream."

And seriously, it is tremendous fun to dream, isn't it? Its why lottery tickets are sold. And someone does indeed win the prize. Why not Illinois?

Lovie and team seem to be hitting their stride. Amazing. Simply amazing

jdapisa on March 21 @ 12:43 PM CDT

Hard not to get excited right now. I feel like I should know better

illiniranger on March 21 @ 04:26 PM CDT

hardest jinx ever

uilaw71 on March 22 @ 12:14 AM CDT

Isn’t it interesting how many were ready to fire Lovie and Josh. Appreciate the sanity Robert.

Biggie on March 22 @ 01:31 AM CDT

Robert using your formula, to be like Rutgers basketball landing the #4 and #8 ranked players, Illinois football would need to land 6-7 players ranked around #28 and 6-7 players ranked around #54 to be equivalent.

Bear8287 on March 22 @ 11:04 AM CDT

if Rutgers did add the #4 and #8 players, expect Rutgers to rocket into Big Ten contention next year

Yes, and if Illinois landed 12-14 of these players, expect Illinois to rocket into Big Ten contention too (maybe not the next year though...). :-D

Bear8287 on March 22 @ 11:03 AM CDT

Sweetchuck13 on March 22 @ 11:13 AM CDT

Man, I really don't like this article. For such a huge (potential) commitment, I'm surprised Robert's willing to write it as if it's likely to happen.

Obviously all signs point to him committing tomorrow, but when is the last time we felt THIS confident about a highly ranked recruit right before the announcement, and they actually picked Illinois? Brian Cook maybe??

Just hope we're not jinxing ourselves like crazy here. But IF it does happen, I'll be doing backflips.

1970 John on March 22 @ 03:28 PM CDT

Beason has been all over twitter recruiting. Seems he knows that he needs a lot of talent playing at all positions. The kids have created their own hashtag, if you haven't seen it: #ILLgang19

Good things are happening. It's all legitimizing Illinois. And one more thing: What does it say about a kid who's willing to take a flyer on Illinois with his career? Yeah, he's cocky. Got swagger. They're not the type to play it safe. They believe in themselves, and they're not afraid to say, yeah, I got an offer from Ohio State but this Illinois thing, let's make that happen. They're not afraid to say that out loud.

Of course, not to tempt fate, this might all yet fall apart, but the mo looks like its happening. Good news tomorrow...

uofibonehead on March 23 @ 09:38 AM CDT

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand how many Tom Cruises? Five?! Tell me it's five.

HiggsBoson on March 23 @ 12:22 PM CDT

Something's going on in Littyville.

uilaw71 on March 23 @ 12:28 PM CDT

For Isaiah, about 5 Tom Cruises plus a Meg Ryan?

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