The 90 Illini - 65~61

Jul 08, 2018

Onward we march towards the top-50. Fifty is usually the line of "this player is going to play, and he's probably going to play a lot, but when you have a head coach who played 22 true freshman last season (21 scholarship players and one walkon), these guys ranked in the 60's have a very good chance of getting on the field.

65. Jartavius Martin

Defensive Back
Lehigh Senior High School / Lehigh Acres, Florida
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 3

What I Know About Him:

He was my Asamoah Award winner this year. That's my award for the lower-ranked recruit who is going to make a big impact, likely earlier rather than later. Martin didn't have many offers (Iowa State was his best offer besides Illinois), but I think he's the exact kind of lanky DB that this staff is looking for.

The only question: is he a cornerback or a safety? Wait, that's supposed to be for the next section.

What I Expect From Him:

Is he a cornerback or a safety? I'm still not sure. Ideally, in my mind, two freshman defensive backs are good enough that they find themselves the second string safety pairing. So in my mind, that's Sydney Brown backing up Stanley Green and then Jartavius Martin backing up Bennett Williams.

But he might also be a cornerback. If we're going by body type and athleticism, he's probably most like Nate Hobbs. So I could handle him being Hobbs' backup as well. I think the starters are set - Hobbs-Watkins-Adams are the two corners and the nickel and then Williams and Green are the safeties. But I'd certainly love to see Martin making a push for some playing time at one of those backup spots.

64. Andrew Trainer

Offensive Lineman
St. Stephens and St Agnes School / Alexandria, Virginia
Redshirt Sophomore (3 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: 3

What I Know About Him:

He flipped from Virginia to Illinois very late in the game back in January of 2016, committing to play tight end for Bill Cubit. There was some question as to whether his home-state Cavaliers dropped him or if he decommitted and flipped to Illinois, but I guess it doesn't matter. He signed on to play for Cubit and then Cubit was fired five weeks later and Lovie was hired.

And with that came a switch to offensive tackle. He was a tight end for the first year under Lovie but was more of the end-of-the-line sixth offensive lineman type. With Lovie looking for more athletic H-back types at TE, Trainer was switched to OT.

What I Expect From Him:

It's hard to say. Last year was his "add 35 lbs and switch to offensive line" year, so it was hard to get a read at camp last August (he had been at offensive tackle all of three days). So this camp will be the "can he be a Big Ten offensive tackle?" camp. He's up to 305 now - let's see what we have.

Of course, he did get injured during the spring scrimmage and had to be helped off the field. I haven't heard anything about any injuries, but we never hear anything about injuries between the spring game and training camp. He could have torn his ACL and we wouldn't really know.

(I don't think he tore his ACL.)

63. Ayo Shogbonyo

Defensive End
Mansfield Summit High School / Arlington, Texas
Redshirt Sophomore (3 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

Here's another player along the same lines. Committed to play linebacker for Bill Cubit very late in the process in January of 2016. Cubit was fired five weeks later, Lovie came in, redshirted him, and then he spent one season at linebacker. This spring, Lovie moved him to defensive end.

Which makes sense. He's probably the tallest (and lankiest) of the linebackers. So they're going to try the James Crawford thing I think - taller linebacker recruited by the former coach, let's make him a weakside defensive end under this coach.

What I Expect From Him:

This probably depends on where Jamal Woods ends up. Right now I'm thinking that Woods splits time with Bobby Roundtree at strongside defensive end with Isaiah Gay and Owen Carney splitting time at weakside defensive end. However, if Woods is more of a defensive tackle (he played both SDE and 3DT last year), then I'm guessing maybe Carney goes over to the strongside with Roundtree and there's a spot open for Shogbonyo at WDE.

More than likely, it's his first year at defensive end so he's third string behind guys who already know the position. Which is why I have him down here at #63. This is probably a learning curve year.

62. Reuben Unije

Offensive Lineman
IMG Academy / Bradenton, Florida
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 2

What I Know About Him:

I know I caught some heat for only giving him two Tom Cruises when one service had him as a four-star offensive lineman. It was viewed as an insult but it's really not. I just saw him as more of a project and less of a "four star lineman who likely plays early". Those linemen get two Cruises and then we'll see what we have in the future.

He was also an early enrollee, so he gets a jump on the other first-year offensive linemen in that process. He's already been through a full spring, so he's likely in the two-deep when camp opens (while the rest of the freshmen are third string). Given that we're starting four sophomores on the offensive line (and the 6th guy is a sophomore as well), I'm seeing many redshirts for the OL.

Crap, I did the thing again.

What I Expect From Him:

Given that we're starting four sophomores on the offensive line (and the 6th guy is a sophomore as well), I'm seeing many redshirts for the OL. Ideally all of them redshirt. And remember, with the new rule, "redshirt" means "only play in four games". So you can get Unije's feet wet during the non-conference and then sit him down to earn that redshirt.

If you do that, then he's two years behind the starting tackles (Lowe, Boyd, Cerny). That means he'd get two years as an understudy (2019 and 2020) and then two years as a starter (2021 and 2022). Sounds like a plan.

61. Deon Pate

Defensive Lineman
Trinity Christian Academy / Jacksonville, Florida
Redshirt Freshman (4 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 2

What I Know About Him:

He's one of three freshmen who redshirted last year. And all three were defensive linemen. Well, all three WERE defensive linemen but then Kendrick Green switched back over to offensive lineman. So I guess the correct way to say that is "there were two defensive linemen who redshirted - Lere Oladipo and Deon Pate.

What I Expect From Him:

It's going to be an uphill battle for Pate at defensive tackle. There are two returning junior starters (Jamal Milan and Tymir Oliver), a third junior who has played a lot the last two seasons (Kenyon Jackson), and two four-star freshmen joining the mix this August (Calvin Avery and Verdis Brown).

So this camp is probably going to be a "don't forget about me" camp for Pate. Same for Oladipo if he ends up at defensive tackle (I still think he might go strongside end). All eyes will be on the two four-star freshmen. Can they make a statement?

Could camp just get here already so we can start to find out?


Illinimac68 on July 08 @ 11:07 PM CDT

It's encouraging that we seem to have some decent linemen who won't have to play much this year barring a slew of injuries but who could provide depth and continuity as Lovie builds a program.

illini_in_stl on July 09 @ 09:44 AM CDT

"Could camp just get here already so we can start to find out?"

The muggy St. Louis summer has me dreaming of breezy fall mornings in Champaign :)

jdapisa on July 09 @ 10:29 AM CDT

Do we know yet the camp dates?

Sweetchuck13 on July 09 @ 02:54 PM CDT

Minor request here Robert - any chance you can add jersey numbers to each guy as you continue with the countdown? Some of us don't have the entire roster memorized and it'll help to start to place a number with the name.

neale stoner on July 09 @ 07:56 PM CDT

If we are as thin at linebacker as you believe, any chance some of the DE candidates get moved? If so, who is most likely?

In the big picture, isn’t the fate of this team in the next two years dependent upon developing two quarterbacks? Seems like we have competitive players, with varying degrees of depth, elsewhere.

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