The 90 Illini - 60~56

Jul 12, 2018

I have 32 minutes before I have to be somewhere. I already filled out the players and their information so all I have to do is fill in the "what I know about him" and "what I expect from him" parts. Can I do that in 31 minutes? I'll have to do it all from memory but let's just see how this goes. There will be no editing so get ready for some un-closed parentheses.

60. Justice Williams

Wide Receiver
Wakeland High School / Frisco, Texas
Junior (2 years to play 2)
Tom Cruises: 3

What I Know About Him:

He came in as a linebacker and was a solid recruit - my memory tells me that he picked Illinois over Mississippi State. But after three years in the linebacking corps, he switched to wide receiver this spring.

So now he enters his junior (fourth) year learning a new position. And my dream of the Truth, Justice, and the American Way linebacking corps (Tre Watson was going to be Truth - he transferred to Maryland; Austin Roberts was going to be The American Way - he's at tight end) is officially dead.

What I Expect From Him:

I'll be honest - I'm always skeptical of fourth-year position changes. That has nothing to do with Justice and everything to do with my bias. If a player switches positions the first few years, they're still developing and finding a spot. If they're moving somewhere their fourth year, it's "he was never going to play at linebacker so let's just plug him in somewhere where we have depth concerns".

So that's my default position here. Which is why I have Williams ranked at #60. I'm skeptical that someone can make the linebacker-to-receiver move, so I'm skeptical that he can crack the depth chart. Hopefully what we see at camp disproves that theory.

59. Kievan Myers

Offensive Lineman
Bishop Dunne High School / Dallas, Texas
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 3

What I Know About Him:

Vontae Davis picking Illinois was a big deal, not only because he was a great player who is still in the NFL, but also because it led to high school teammates Arrelious Benn and Nate Bussey also choosing Illinois.

Kievan Myers picking Illinois was a big deal, not only because he (has the potential to be) a great player who (might) play in the NFL, but also because it led to high school teammates Calvin Avery and Marquez Beason also choosing Illinois.

What I Expect From Him:

He's another one of those massive offensive linemen Lovie has recruited. Vederian Lowe and Larry Boyd arrived at 340+; Myers arrives at 330 lbs. I'm sure they'll get him down to 320 or so (much like they've done with Lowe and Boyd), so this first year is probably all about getting him in the weight room with Joey Boese.

But, with the new redshirt rule, he could maybe play some spot duty here and there. I think we know the top six offensive linemen (Lowe, Allegretti, Kramer, Palcho, Boyd, and Cerny), but after that it seems to be wide open. I could easily see a freshman like Myers stepping up and becoming that seventh guy.

58. James McCourt

St. Thomas Aquinas High School / Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Redshirt Sophomore (3 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: 2.5

What I Know About Him:

I know I was disappointed to learn that he didn't have an Irish accent. He moved to the United States from Ireland as a kid with just enough time to lose the Irish accent and gain a Florida accent.

The previous staff had a lot of connections at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florida, and when they were out looking for a kicker in 2016, they landed on McCourt.

What I Expect From Him:

Chase McLaughlin won the starting kicking job at Lovie's first training camp in 2016 and has held onto the job for two seasons. He has one more season to kick and then he graduates, so McCourt probably has one more year as a backup before fighting with incoming freshman Caleb Griffin for the starting kicking spot next summer.

But it's not just kicking. McCourt is also our backup punter this fall, so if Blake Hayes were to be out, McCourt would be in there punting away. I'm guessing that's just a temporary thing, and with Hayes only being a sophomore, that position is locked down for three years. So McCourt's shot to get on the field is to win the kicking battle with Griffin next summer.

57. Nick Walker

Defensive Back
Cisco Junior College / originally from St. Louis, Missouri
Sophomore (4 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: 2.5

What I Know About Him:

I know he was high school teammates with Stanley Green at Miller Career Academy (not a major high school program) here in St. Louis. To get more exposure, Green transferred across the river to East St. Louis, got the Illinois offer, and is now our starting safety. Walker went the juco route, playing at Cisco College in Texas before landing the Illinois offer and heading to Champaign.

I believe Green was a year older than Walker, so they would have played together when Green was a junior and Walker a sophomore in high school. Which means that now, Green is a junior and Walker is a sophomore in college (he only played one year at juco so he has three years of eligibility left).

What I Expect From Him:

The first question - is he a corner or is he a safety? The second question - if he's a corner, is he more of a nickel or more of an outside guy? So this first camp will be all about seeing where he fits.

I'll be honest - I THINK I saw Walker in the spring scrimmage (he enrolled early), but his jersey number didn't match the roster. There was this one corner (wearing 20-something) who was making some solid plays but the roster listed that number as being a walkon. A walkon who doesn't look like Walker at all. So if he was the mystery guy in the 20-something jersey (the roster listed him as #22 but the guy making plays was #20 - something like that), then I have solid hope for the future.

56. Carlos Sandy

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

What I Know About Him:

I only have three minutes left so I'll have to go fast. Sandy is a shorter, quicker receiver. My guess is that he'll back up Dude K in the slot, but I can't be certain of that until I see him on the field. He was a track guy in high school, so it seems clear that he's being brought here for his speed.

He's also another high school teammate recruit. We seem to cover that a lot. Myers is teammates with Avery and Beason. Norwood and Barker are teammates. Stanley Green and Nick Walker. Carlos Sandy and Ron Hardge III.

What I Expect From Him:

He might be the only other true slot receiver (besides Dude K) on the roster, so there's a good chance he finds his way into the rotation as his backup. Of course, I have no idea how Rod Smith is going to use his receivers, or if "slot receiver is just these two guys" is the way he operates. So there's much to learn.

My guess is that he doesn't redshirt. We need numbers at wide receiver, and this is an offense that is going to use speed, not size, so Sandy is a guy who might rise to the top fairly quickly. Let's put him in the "might play four games and redshirt, but probably plays more than four games" category.


PapaDels4me on July 12 @ 08:43 AM CDT

The best coverage to be found anywhere. Thanks for all you do.

illinisludge on July 12 @ 10:43 AM CDT

Great work. keep it up. thank you. Question: I know the program should be evaluated along the lines of "5 years, no questions asked," but I gotta ask: what can we look for as signs of improvement this fall? I mean, I gotta have something to give me some hope.

ktal on July 13 @ 10:49 PM CDT

This site keeps me sane.

But I'm going crazy for football this year. I can't wait to read reports from camp. I'm really convincing myself that 4-5 wins this year is possible. Camp should clarify if my assumptions prove false:

  1. Rod Smith improves OC'ing, as demonstrated by better scheming, play calling and creation of mis-matches. Should result in O spending more time on the field...but won't know until live play.
    1. OLine- better, stronger, more cohesive. Results in more time for QB and more holes for RBs, so...more yards and more scores.
    2. QB - Cannot be worse, right? Here's my dream; Comp% >65. I know, I'm dreaming. But it has happened in this sport. And Lovie got to the Super Bowl with QB Comp <60%, so doing it the hard way is still possible.
    3. Speed of play: lots faster on both O & D. The new offense may use pace of play advantageously, but D is going to be reacting faster as a benefit of all the experience among true sophomores.

Two and a half of these are surely observable in camp, so we'll know in August if my optimism is ungrounded. But I don't see a us having a big deficit for size, speed or athleticism in most of the B1G this year, so if our guys are playing 'downhill' I honestly don't think playing the kitties with a bowl on the line is impossible.

Bear8287 on July 14 @ 10:47 AM CDT

Love your optimism. :-)

If Lovie can get a bunch of sophomores who were part of a recruiting class that was ranked in the bottom half of the B1G to a bowl game this year, he'll deserve the B1G COY award.

Would "Lovie" to see it.

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