The 90 Illini - 55~51


Robert
Jul 16, 2018
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6 Comments

We're right on the edge now. I look at a football two-deep as 50 players. 11 offensive players and their backups, 11 defensive players and their backups, two kickers, two punters, two long-snappers. So we're pretty much at "players I expect to see on the field every game" at this point.

55. Verdis Brown

Defensive Lineman
IMG Academy / originally from Chicago, Illinois
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 4.25

What I Know About Him:

I know we don't know whether he'll be a defensive lineman or an offensive lineman. Lovie has said that he likes to start players on defense and then move some of them to offense (and keep some of them on defense). That's not every lineman - Calvin Avery is clearly a defensive lineman; Alex Palczewski is clearly an offensive lineman - but for the "tweeners" he likes to start them on D. Kendrick Green just spent a year on the defensive line before getting moved to offense; perhaps Brown will do the same. Or perhaps he'll stay on defense.

Brown was perhaps the biggest "get" of the 2018 class. Calvin Avery is ranked higher and probably has more NFL potential, but Brown, one of the "big two" in Chicago (along with Houston Griffith) who went to IMG Academy in Florida, was a huge "Illinois can land the top players in Chicago" recruiting win. (And it wouldn't have happened if Jimbo Fisher didn't leave FSU for Texas A&M, leading the Verdis decommitting from FSU, leading to Verdis in Champaign.

What I Expect From Him:

Perhaps Kendrick Green is our guide here. Green was the second highest rated player in the 2017 class but was one of only three freshmen to redshirt. I'm guessing the fact that he was getting an "audition" on the defensive line was one of the main reasons for that redshirt. Why waste a year of eligibility for an experiment? Green will now have four years of eligibility on the offensive line.

Maybe that's the same thing we see with Brown. A redshirt year while they try to make him a defensive tackle. If it doesn't stick, over to the offensive line in the spring and then he'll have his freshman year there in 2019.

Or, perhaps more likely, he plays immediately at defensive tackle. It might even be that Green's switch to OL was directly related to Verdis joining the defensive tackle rotation. He enrolled early, so he might be ready to play (as, say, a backup to Tymir Oliver) in the first game.

54. Marc Mondesir

Linebacker
St. Rita High School / Chicago, Illinois
Sophomore (4 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

Mondesir was a camp find in the summer of 2016 (along with Tony Adams). Lovie held a camp in Chicago, liked what he saw from Mondesir, offered him after the camp, and he verballed soon after. (Adams was the same at the St. Louis camp - offered at the end of the camp - but that took a little longer as he camped at Missouri the next week, got an offer there, spent six weeks going back and forth between the two, and finally picked Illinois).

And Mondesir did play last year on special teams. He was fairly thin for a linebacker, and I can't remember him getting many (any?) snaps there, so I think they were just using him as one of the faster linebackers on special teams. This year, I'm assuming he's bulked up some and is ready to get in there for some snaps at linebacker.

What I Expect From Him:

I think he's certainly on both coverage teams this year. But I have this thought that a guy like Mondesir might be a good candidate for the new redshirt rule. As of right now, Lovie is on track for 34 scholarship seniors in 2020. You can only add a recruiting class of 25, so that's going to have to even out in some way. If Mondesir is only going to play special teams this year, maybe only play him in four games and make him part of the 2021 senior class? Just a thought. We will likely see several sophomore and junior redshirts with the new rule. Even if just by accident (player is buried in the depth chart and only plays in three games, thus retaining a year of eligibility).

Where he's needed, though, is at linebacker. This is probably a big training camp for him. Can he make a statement in position drills and find a spot in the linebacker rotation? The playing time is definitely there for the taking.

53. Griffin Palmer

Tight End
DeSmet High School / St. Louis, Missouri
Redshirt Sophomore (3 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

I know his dad played football at Iowa, and his dream was to be able to play Big Ten football, so when tight end Eric Eshoo picked Northwestern over Illinois, Illinois offered the next guy on the board (Palmer) and he promptly decommitted from Miami (OH) and committed to Illinois.

He's also from St. Louis which almost assuredly means he likes Imo's Pizza, toasted ravioli, and saying "there's the arch" any time you can see the arch.

What I Expect From Him:

Similar to what I've said about other tight ends on this list, I don't know how Rod Smith is going to use his tight ends so it's hard to say where a guy like Palmer will fit in. But the third season is usually when a "skinny-kid-we're-going-to-turn-into-a-college-tight-end" recruits begin to show you what they can do (see Caleb Reams last year), so that's what we should expect from Palmer this season. His upper body is filling out, so he's certainly beginning to look the part.

52. Lere Oladipo

Defensive Lineman
Huntley High School / Huntley, Illinois
Redshirt Freshman (4 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 4

What I Know About Him:

It's interesting that perhaps our two biggest in-state battles for recruits in 2017 (vs. Iowa for Kendrick Green, vs. Michigan State and Penn State for Oladipo) were two of the three players who redshirted. Oladipo was slowed by an injury in August (I'm not sure he played at all during the first three weeks of camp), so that probably contributed to his redshirt.

Because of that, he seems to be the forgotten man on the defensive line. This was the in-state defensive linemen that we kept losing to Michigan State over the years finally deciding to stay home. And, like Michigan State, when he's a redshirt sophomore, we might really have something.

What I Expect From Him:

The biggest question mark is position. You know how there's such a thing as a combo guard in basketball? He's not really a pure point guard and not really a shooting guard so let's just call him a combo guard? That's similar to a guy like Oladipo on the defensive line. In fact, let's give them basketball-like numbers, smallest to biggest.

1 - Weakside defensive end. Almost an outside linebacker at times.
2 - Strongside defensive end. Has to hold up against the run as well as rush the passer.
3 - Three-technique defensive tackle. Some call it the "under tackle" - lined up in the gap between OG and OT.
4 - Nose tackle. Lined up in the gap between center and guard. Sometimes called "shade" - basically lining up on the center's shoulder.

Oladipo is somewhere between 2 and 3, maybe slightly leaning towards 3. But other players might determine which way he leans. Is Jamal Woods a 2 or a 3? Is Owen Carney a 1 or a 2? If Ezekiel Holmes is a pure 1, does that push Carney to 2 which pushes Woods or Oladipo to 3?

I'm thinking that Oladipo ends up at the 3. But he might be a 2. Also quite possible he's a 3.

51. Kurt Gavin

Offensive Lineman
Lincoln Way East High School / Frankfort, Illinois
Redshirt Sophomore (3 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: 2.5

What I Know About Him:

Gavin was part of the Cubit class that signed in February, 2016, a month before Cubit was fired and Lovie hired. He originally committed to Tim Beckman in July of 2015... a month before Beckman was fired. And now, as he enters his third (redshirt sophomore) season, Garrick McGee was fired as the OC and Rod Smiths new (non-flipped line) offense is being installed.

I should describe that for the uninitiated. Garrick McGee's offense (which is the Bobby Petrino offense) would "flip" the offensive line depending on the formation. In most offenses, when the tight end lines up on the left (typically the weakside), he's lining up on the shoulder of the left tackle instead of the right tackle. In the McGee offense, when this happened (or when the "heavy" personnel side of the field was on the left), the offensive line would flip and the right tackle would go to left tackle (and the right guard would go to left guard). This way that tackle was always blocking on the "strong" side of the field, left or right.

The new offense doesn't do that. So players will mostly learn one side (right or left) and stay there.

What I Expect From Him:

It's a big year for the linemen in that Cubit class (and for the remaining linemen from Beckman's 2015 class). If we're assuming that the starters are Boyd-Palcho-Kramer-Allegretti-Lowe, then the battle for the backup spots will be between the second and third-year guys (Gavin, Jake Cerny, Adam Solomon, Zeke Martin) and the incoming freshmen (Kievan Myers, Jordyn Slaughter, Reuben Unije). Guys like Cerny are currently pushing for a starting spot. Guys like Martin might be battling to stay on the second string.

And a guy like Gavin could go either way. Since he's only a redshirt sophomore, I'm putting him on this list behind guys like Solomon and Martin. This is the make or break season for those two - Gavin has another year where he can prove himself and then hope to crack the lineup soon after that.

Comments

1970 John on July 17 @ 05:08 AM CDT

I know this is all serious football stuff, but I chuckled when I read "saying "there's the arch" any time you can see the arch." As an expat from Metro East (before it was called Metro East), and someone who was around to see the Arch being built, I'm entitled. In the immortal words of Curley, I resemble that remark.

You may return to your usually scheduled football.

Lassomatic on July 17 @ 08:35 AM CDT

Solid post, only addition to St. Louis trademarks would be asking “where did you go to high school?” My wife is from St. Louis and I never understood the obsession....

Right Rev on July 17 @ 10:34 AM CDT

Haha! So true. I moved there out of law school no one cared where I went to college (Go Illini!) or even law school but everyone wanted to know where I went to high school.

MoCoMdIllini on July 17 @ 01:06 PM CDT

My mom taught at McCluer back in the day. I don't know where I would have gone had we stayed in the area, though.

6Winsorbust on July 17 @ 09:00 PM CDT

I thought Verdis is not going to be eligible to play and must redshirt. Please clarify on that. Seems like I read in multiple places that Verdis is a mandatory redshirt this season, and it has something to do with Mt. Carmel being on trimesters and the timing didn't work out or something like that???

HiggsBoson on July 18 @ 12:58 PM CDT

Reports that Larry Boyd who started on the OL as a freshman last year is indefinitely suspended, which might affect your top 50. Also, unconfirmed that I've seen rumors that he and another player might be transferring. May be nothing to the rumors, of course.

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