The 90 Illini - 75~71

Jun 25, 2018

It's June 25th and I'm already behind. That's just so typically me. But it's still early, right? I mean, I have some vacation days next week so I could crank out one every other day or something. I'll catch up. I always do. Very soon I'll get lost in the game.

75. Ezekiel Holmes

Defensive End
Hirschi High School / Wichita Falls, Texas
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 3

What I Know About Him:

Isaiah Gay II. Or at least that's what we're hoping. In February 2017, in the final days of the recruiting class, we discovered Isaiah Gay in North Carolina and signed him up at the last minute. In February 2018, in the final days of the recruiting class, we discovered Ezekiel Holmes in Texas and signed him up at the last minute. Gay, despite being wildly undersized as an 18 year-old freshman, was able to contribute last season. Big things are expected in the future once he adds the weight/strength. And for Holmes, well, samesies.

When Gay committed - remember, he was headed to Elon before we told him "don't sign just yet" the night before signing day - he wasn't rated by 247. They later watched his film and bumped him to a high 3-star. For Holmes.... same. Wasn't rated, suddenly got late interest from schools like Illinois, Baylor, and Washington State, months after signing day he's rated an 85. The late discovery offers-came-flying-in-the-final-week kind of recruit.

What I Expect From Him:

Defensive line will be very interesting this year. We return seven guys who played regularly last year - Roundtree, Gay, Woods, and Carney at DE, Milan, Oliver, and Jackson at DT - and then we add all of these other players who might play. The three redshirts from last year (Kendrick Green, Deon Pate, and Lere Oladipo) plus the incoming 4-star freshmen (Calvin Avery and Verdis Brown). So unless we're going to rotate 12 defensive linemen (we might), um, where is everyone going to play?

Because of that, I'd expect a few redshirts. Like Holmes. If we add anyone to the DE rotation, I'm guessing it's someone like Oladipo at strongside DE while the other guys (like Holmes) take a redshirt and get stronger. (Of course, there's that new redshirt rule, so let's call this one "Holmes plays during the non-con and then retains his redshirt during the Big Ten season.)

74. Julian Pearl

Offensive Lineman Or Maybe Defensive Lineman Or Possibly Even Tight End
Danville High School / Danville, Illinois
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

I'm fascinated to learn where Pearl ends up. He's this really tall athlete who looks like a basketball player and really doesn't have a position yet. When you see him in street clothes you kind of think tight end. But then you realize he's 18 years old and when you add some weight to him, that's an offensive tackle. Of course, maybe someone that lanky with the ability to add weight should end up at defensive end?

Pearl was originally committed to Northern Illinois before flipping to Illinois. NIU does a lot of recruiting in that way - offer the big, strong kid who might not have a position and figure it out later. Current first-team All American defensive end Sutton Smith is like that at NIU. He was a high school running back down here in St. Louis, NIU recruited him as just a strong athlete, and now he's an All American at defensive end despite not playing there in high school. Grab the exceptionally strong kids, find them a spot.

What I Expect From Him:

Again, with any other coaching staff I'm writing "lock of all locks to redshirt" here. When you recruit that big, strong basketball player, you take a few years to teach him how to use his length on a football field. Those crazy long arms will be good for something - you just have to find it. With Pearl, that's what I'd expect - a redshirt while figuring out if he's on the offensive line or the defensive line.

But with this staff, I wouldn't be surprised to see him out there against Kent State. Playing... somewhere.

73. Jacob Hollins

Central East High School / Fresno, California
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

We chased two big-time linebackers back in December and January - Ayodele Adeoye, who chose Texas, and Merlin Robertson, who chose Arizona State. Once those two choices were made, we still needed a linebacker, so we settled on Jacob Hollins, a former Idaho commit who was down to Illinois and hometown Fresno State.

I expected the coaching staff to recruit linebackers last year the same way they recruited defensive linemen in 2017. As in, bring in two for every position (so, like, six linebackers). They didn't and that still confuses me. It must mean that they feel really good about Khalan Tolson and Jacob Hollins.

What I Expect From Him:

Based on film and readiness, Hollins would have probably ranked down in the 80's on this list. But he might be needed immediately. The linebacking corps was so thin last year that some walkons got to play. So one would think that the two freshmen might have the chance to play immediately.

And with two of those walkons getting arrested to putting a deer sculpture on their apartment roof, Hollins is probably too low on this list. There's now a decent chance he's in the rotation of six players for the first game.

72. Kenyon Sims

Running Back
Mission Bay High School / San Diego, California
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 2.5

What I Know About Him:

This was Rod Smith's first move as the new Illini offensive coordinator - go land the San Diego running back he had been recruiting at Arizona. Sims had originally selected Utah, but after decommitting there, the new Illini OC got him to switch his Arizona visit to an Illinois visit and eventually landed him (after Sims visited Oregon State).

I talk a lot about "fit" when it comes to certain players and certain offensive schemes. So it's obviously a good thing that Smith was able to land a quarterback (Matt Robinson) and a tailback (Kenyon Sims) in the two weeks post-hire/pre-signing day. Every offensive coordinator needs to stack up several of his type of guys at every position.

What I Expect From Him:

Carries will be very interesting under Smith. I think you have to toss out all of the carries which were handed out last year. Reggie Corbin was obviously in Garrick McGee's doghouse, but with the amount of carries he received in the spring scrimmage, expect his production to skyrocket. McGee seemed to fall in love with Dre Brown last November - will Smith see him the same? Mike Epstein would have been the certain starter under McGee - is it the same with Smith? What about Ra'Von Bonner? And what about the two freshmen - Jakari Norwood and Sims?

My guess is that the bulk of the carries go to the four guys listed above - Epstein, Corbin, Brown, and Bonner. I know that Smith's offense won't be exactly the Rich Rod offense - he'll want to do his own things - but last year at Arizona it was basically a rotation of three running backs (getting 146, 128, and 66 carries). So I'm guessing he does the same here, with three of the four above getting those carries. Does that mean a redshirt for Sims? Maybe.

71. Brandon Jones

Tight End
Hickman High School / Columbia, Missouri
Redshirt Sophomore (3 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: 1

What I Know About Him:

Jones was the guy who committed to Illinois the week that Beckman was fired. It was a bit of a "wait, what - this interim coach has only been the head coach for five days" kind of a thing. But Jones wanted to commit before his high school season started, and Illinois was his best offer, and Cubit said the Beckman offer was still good, so he took it.

Since then he's bounced around in his two years. He was a defensive end the first year (more of a rush linebacker role) and then last year he was moved to fullback. This year, his third year (redshirt sophomore year) it's tight end.

What I Expect From Him:

It's hard to say. I have no idea what the tight ends will look like in this offense. If it was the last offense, I'd say that they were bulking up Jones to play that Nate Echard "blocking tight end/fullback/h-back" role. The role Eddie Viliunas played on the 2010 team. But now that the offense has changed, I'm not sure where Jones fits.

So let's just say that I expect more moving around. Wouldn't be surprised to see him end up back at defensive end. When you change schemes, some guys get shuffled out.


Illiniiniowa on June 25 @ 01:57 PM CDT

How about we loan Julian Pearl to the basketball team this year while he redshirts in football?

PapaDels4me on June 25 @ 05:20 PM CDT

Thinking the exact same thing, lol.

Illinimac68 on June 26 @ 06:20 AM CDT

Didn't that happen years ago with a football player? Rucks?

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