The 90 Illini - 80~76

Jun 18, 2018

It's so odd talking about redshirts after the new rule passed last week. Used to be, the redshirt decision for freshmen meant one play and the redshirt is burned. Now, that freshman can play four full games. So when I'm making these "I think #81 might redshirt" claims, that no longer means what it meant. Everybody will have the chance to show what they can do on the field, and only after they've played in four games does the coaching staff have a decision to make.

80. Edwin Carter

Wide Receiver
Sandalwood High School / Jacksonville, Florida
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

Carter is a track guy. Last month he finished fourth (in the largest Florida class) in the 110m hurdles at their state track meet. Hurdler usually means "tall, yet still fast, athlete".

I think the coaches envision this tall yet still fast athlete as a wide receiver. But there's always a chance they see him as a defensive back. I've said this about every ATH recruit (especially the track guys) the last 10 years but I feel like I need to keep saying it. Just because someone is a WR recruit coming in doesn't mean they stay there. The coaches will run them through every drill imagineable to see where they perform best.

What I Expect From Him:

And I think Carter will perform best at Wide Receiver. Maybe it's just the Renaldo Nehemiah thing (all 110m hurdlers become wide receivers because Renaldo Nehemiah left the Olympics and joined the 49ers as a wideout - it's science), but I do think that's where he'll fit.

So maybe he should go higher on this list. We need some numbers at WR. But I'm not sure how deep Rod Smith will go with his WR rotation, so it's hard to say if someone like Carter would have a chance at climbing into the rotation. As always, this kid is TBD until I can see him at camp.

79. MJ Rivers

Lone Star High School / Frisco, Texas
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 2.5

What I Know About Him:

There are three freshman quarterbacks, plus Cam Thomas, plus Isaiah Williams is verballed for next year. So we need to acknowledge that one or two of the freshman QB's are going to either change positions or transfer. It's just math. If Coran Taylor becomes the next great Illini quarterback then MJ Rivers and Matt Robinson will either change positions or transfer.

For Rivers, given that his father played tight end in the NFL, and given that he's 6'-4", I already have him half moved to tight end. That's completely unfair, and he will be given every chance to win the QB job, but this is how my brain works. Like, 80% of college quarterback recruits end up not working out, so my brain always immediately goes to "where can we use him if QB isn't working?". For Rivers, I have him at tight end.

What I Expect From Him:

The tricky thing here will be how Rivers - who was recruited by Garrick McGee to run the Garrick McGee offense - performs in the Rod Smith offense. They're similar offenses, true, but I think Smith will be even heavier on the "quarterback is just another running back" side of things. And I'm not sure that's something Rivers can do?

So this is another "need to wait for camp to see what he can do" guy. I'd believe anything between "is certain to be our QB of the future" and "will be at tight end as soon as next spring".

78. Michael Marchese

Defensive Back
Stevenson High School / Lincolnshire, Illinois
Sophomore (walkon, 4 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: not rated (walkon)

What I Know About Him:

This is where I'm supposed to spout out "I know he recovered a fumble in the __ game", but I can't remember which game. The... Indiana game? I want to say it was a muffed punt and Marchese fell on it. I'm going to look this up now.

First career fumble recovery on a muffed punt at Purdue.

Purdue? I watched that game on TV? I swear I remember him recovering that muffed punt at home. My memory is slipping.

If his name sounds familiar, he's the younger brother of walkon-turned-scholarship-linebacker Jimmy Marchese. Jimmy is a linebacker - Michael is likely a safety.

What I Expect From Him:

When we say "22 true freshmen played last year" it's because of Marchese. Three scholarship freshmen redshirted (all defensive linemen - Lere Oladipo, Deon Pate, and Kendrick Green), and one of the 25 players in that class was a juco (Del'Shawn Phillips), which meant that 21 true freshmen played, but that number is 22 because one walkon true freshman played - Michael Marchese.

And I think he can stay in the mix at safety (thus the inclusion of him on this list ahead of many scholarship players). Maybe only in a backup role while he mostly concentrations on coverage teams, but he has a full year in the system and might be someone the coaches lean on early.

77. Jakari Norwood

Running Back
Deerfield Beach High School / Deerfield Beach, Florida
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 2

What I Know About Him:

Norwood enrolled early, so he's been on campus since January. And he got a fair number of carries during the spring scrimmage (not a game, a scrimmage). He's a shorter, shiftier (smaller) tailback, so it will be interesting to see if the Rod Smith offense is a big boost for him. It just seems like an offense where a shorter, shiftier guy could excel.

Norwood is also one of two Deerfield Beach players in the 2018 class. Lovie seems to love teammates, and here's another set. Tailback Jakari Norwood and tight end Daniel Barker.

What I Expect From Him:

I think it's tough sailing to break the tailback rotation this year. Mike Epstein returns from injury, Reggie Corbin had a great spring ~~game~~ scrimmage, Dre Brown looked really good the last few games last year once he was finally healthy, Ra'Von Bonner looked like he had trimmed down some and had a few really big runs in April, incoming freshman Kenyon Sims was hand-selected by Rod Smith after he got the job - there's an uphill battle for carries.

And this year, I don't expect Norwood to get many of them. I'd say a redshirt would be good here. Spread out the class balance a little more.

76. Delano Ware

El Cerrito High School / El Cerrito, California
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 3

What I Know About Him:

At some point our entire secondary is going to be from the Bay Area. Bennett Williams is from Campbell (right next to Cupertino, so think Silicon Valley), cornerback Dylan Wyatt is from Albany (right next to Berkeley), and Delano Ware is from El Cerrito (right next to Albany). If you're wondering where Hardy Nickerson recruits, it's the Bay Area (where he was a high school coach before joining Lovie in Tampa Bay).

Ware was originally committed to Nevada, but flipped when he got the Illinois offer. His senior film impressed, the coaches had him in for a visit on the first weekend after the season, and he flipped to Illinois. Why? (Get ready to see this "joke" a lot over the next four years.


What I Expect From Him:

One freshman safety might make the regular rotation (and possibly two). It might be Ware, but there are two safeties I haven't listed yet, so those are probably the two I think will make the rotation.

Which, I guess, means that I think Ware will redshirt. But as I said at the top, with this new rule, "redshirt" here means "will play in four random games but then will sit, thereby preserving his fifth year of eligibility". So if you see him out there on special teams, it no longer means "burned redshirt". The redshirt now won't burn until the fifth game played.


Sweetchuck13 on June 19 @ 10:27 AM CDT

Robert - since you brought up golf with the Caddyshack reference (nicely done), what are the chances of you getting a podcast or interview with Dylan Meyer, fresh off turning pro and his top 20 finish at the U.S. Open?

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