The 90 Illini - 85~81

Jun 11, 2018

Thanks to the reminder from Bear8287 in the comments on the last 90i post, I'm (finally) going to add the Tom Cruise rating for each player. I started doing the Tom Cruise thing in the middle of the 2014 class, so it's taken until now to have Tom Cruise ratings for everyone on the roster. Well, everyone except for Dudek and Allegretti. They both committed early in the 2014 class before I started the Tom Cruise thing.

Anyway, we won't get to them until the week before the season (spoiler alert). For now, let's do #85 through #81.

85. Ron Hardge III

Defensive Back
Cardinal Gibbons High School / Fort Lauderdale, Florida
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 2.5

What I Know About Him:

Hardge is part of a very large defensive back class. Seven guys, most likely. I say "most likely" because when you're dealing with ATH recruits, some that you think will end up at defensive back end up at wide receiver (and vice versa). I think there will be seven defensive backs in this class. And I think that Hardge will be one of them.

Hardge had a solid offer list (Pitt, NC State, Mississippi State, Indiana, etc.), so that might suggest he'd be near the top of the freshman defensive back pile. But he's also one of those "might be a corner, might be a nickel, might be a safety" guys, and it might be a while before we figure out where he lands. So, he slides in at #85 on this list.

What I Expect From Him:

I think he ends up at safety. But that's just a total guess based on watching his film and thinking about what Lovie wants at each position. If he is at safety, I'm guessing he redshirts. I think only two freshman safeties will play this year, and we haven't gotten to those two names yet.

So, redshirt, try every spot in the defensive backfield, see where he fits best. I know that sounds kind of crazy right after a season where we played all but three freshmen, but I really do think we'll see some redshirts this fall. No, really.

84. Jake Stover

Offensive Lineman
St. Rita High School / Chicago, Illinois
Redshirt Freshman (walkon, 4 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: not rated (walkon)

What I Know About Him:

Stover walked on last year and, with our very thin roster on the OL, spent a lot of time on the second string. If I recall correctly, he played some center and some guard.

He's from St. Rita HS, which makes him a high school teammate of linebacker Marc Mondesir and walkon linebacker Sean Coghlan. For some reason, you see that a lot. The guy who makes the decision to walk on at an FBS school instead of taking a scholarship at a lower level of football is often the high school teammate of someone on the team.

What I Expect From Him:

Last year the roster was so thin on the OL. This year, four new scholarship freshmen arrive this month to provide much-needed depth. So it's hard to say where Stover might factor in. Best case scenario, he's a dependable guy who Coach Butkus can lean on for depth as he gets the freshmen ready. Typical walkon scenario, the scholarship freshmen immediately climb higher on the depth chart and a guy like Stover has to fight and fight for eventual minutes on the field.

83. Dylan Wyatt

Defensive Back
St. Mary's College High School / Albany, California
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 2.5

What I Know About Him:

Wyatt was the player we added after Signing Day back in February. The Isaiah Gay for this class. Signing Day is over, but we still have a scholarship available and it's yours if you want it.

And his high school (in the Bay Area, not too far from Cal-Berkeley) is a smaller, private high school, so he was a bit of a "turn over every stone" recruit. The easiest way to determine that his high school was smaller and not very football-centric? They play their games on a combo baseball/football field where second base is near the sideline, the visitors bench covers the pitching mound, and the track goes around both like some five-sided NASCAR track.

What I Expect From Him:

I really liked his film and boosted him to 2.5 Cruises. Granted, he was likely playing fairly weak "let's add a football team wouldn't that be cute?" competition. So we will see how he does against FBS competition. But he has all of those little instinct things you need from a cornerback in college. Anticipate things before they happen and whatnot.

And yes, I think he's a corner. Now watch - he'll be at safety the first week of camp and then moved to wide receiver by the third week. But when I watch his film, I see a guy who fits what Lovie is trying to do with his cornerbacks. Maybe not this year or the next, but with so many DB's coming in, Wyatt can redshirt, acclimate to Big Ten football, and then be part of the reinforcements in a few years when the first wave of Lovie defensive backs graduates.

82. Christian Bobak

Defensive Back and/or Running Back and/or Special Teams Dynamo
Hinsdale Central High School / Hinsdale, Illinois
Redshirt Sophomore (walkon, 3 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: not rated (walkon)

What I Know About Him:

Last year was a fun journey for the walkon running back. In the first game, there he is on the kickoff coverage team. He pushed past a bunch of scholarship players as a redshirt freshman and found himself on the field. Because he performed well there, the coaches tried him on defense for a while to see if he could maybe be a nickel cornerback. And then we had a bunch of injuries at running back so he moved back to offense and even got a carry in a game (1 carry for -1 yards, hopefully not his only carry in college).

What I Expect From Him:

I put three positions above because I'm not sure how they'll use him. Can he still beat out the scholarship players to make the first string coverage units? We could use a Special Teams Dynamo (where have you gone, Aaron Gress), so it would be great if that's his specialty. But we also might need him for depth at running back. Or, perhaps, he only moved back to running back last season because we were so thin on numbers but his real future is on defense playing nickel.

This will be one of those "how does the second crop of Lovie recruits affect the walkons who played last year?" test cases. Were these guys playing because we didn't have any depth or were they paying because they have a future (and possibly a scholarship) on this team? We shall find out soon.

81. Kerby Joseph

Defensive Back
Jones High School / Orlando, Florida
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

Say it with me. "Is he a cornerback? Maybe a safety? More of a nickel cornerback? What about wide receiver?"

I think I'll need to say that for every ATH we added. I'm fairly certain that Joseph was recruited to be a defensive back - specifically a safety - but we really won't know until maybe 18 months from now. Joseph, on film, looks very familiar to sophomore-to-be Kendall Smith. Smith was at wide receiver all last summer and fall and then safety this spring. The start of his sophomore year will probably determine where he stays. If he's at WR in a few months, he's probably a WR for good. If he's in the defensive backfield... might still just be an extended tryout and he still could go back to WR.

What I Expect From Him:

This is hard to answer until we know which position he plays. Reminds me of my feelings towards defensive lineman Deon Pate last year. Was Pate a defensive end? Defensive tackle? I figured it would be a few years before we knew (and Pate indeed was one of the three freshmen who redshirted), so my expectations were "I don't know yet".

Joseph is the same. Where does he play? When does he find a position and settle in? I really feel like there will be lots more redshirts this year as some of those things are figured out.

(Now watch 23 of the freshmen play.)


Sweetchuck13 on June 11 @ 08:24 AM CDT

Glad to see the 90i rolling along once again - thanks for giving us this nice little countdown.

And this may be a separate post, but I was just curious - as we start to get closer to another football season, are you still thinking of switching things up or incorporating any of the suggestions that came up in that thread last fall?

ahamm445 on June 11 @ 12:30 PM CDT

Great stuff Robert, as a broke college kid and huge illini fan, your posts are always appreciated. The amount of quality content can’t be matched.. You’re doing things the right way for the right reasons, like a true illini. As soon as I get some real money you’ll be receiving a large donation or two and an additional subscriber. Until then, THANKS

Bear8287 on June 12 @ 11:55 AM CDT

Yay! Tom Cruises. Thanks Robert.

but I really do think we'll see some redshirts this fall. No, really.

Sure hope so... :-D

Dr. Chim Richalds on June 13 @ 09:26 PM CDT

Your depth of knowledge about walk-ons, late unknown recruits, and other players on this level of the depth chart is truly unparalleled. Great to see the 90i back!

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