The 90 Illini - 40~36

Aug 03, 2018

Camp starts tomorrow, so this is the last time I can make a mistake on The 90 Illini. I'm always worried about an Evan Jones situation - I have someone slotted at #46, and then they transfer before camp starts and I have an open spot on my list that I have to fill with a walkon. But tomorrow, we see all the players out on the field, so we'll know that we know.

40. Bobby Walker

Tight End
Loyola Academy / Golf, Illinois
Junior (2 years to play 2)
Tom Cruises: Not rated - arrived as a walkon.

What I Know About Him:

Began as a walkon but received a scholarship on Christmas last year. And he wasn't always a tight end walkon. For a while, it looked like his best shot to get on the field was as a longsnapper.

In high school he played at Loyola Academy (head coach John Holocek). They won the state title in 2015 and finished second in 2013, 2016, and 2017, so (doing the math real quick) he would have been on the 2013 team but was already at Illinois when they won it all in 2015.

What I Expect From Him:

If Lovie was still running with Garrick McGee's offense, then I think we know that Walker would have played a lot. Last season, especially in November, Walker was pretty much the main blocking tight end. He got all kinds of snaps (which is what led to him getting that scholarship).

In the Rod Smith offense, well, we'll have to wait and see (until tomorrow!). I need to see how he's going to use the tight ends before I can say how much Walker might play. So let's put this one down as TBD.

39. Adam Solomon

Offensive Lineman
Bishop Chatard High School / Indianapolis, Indiana
Junior (2 years to play 2)
Tom Cruises: 3

What I Know About Him:

I was pleased to see on Twitter today that he and Gabe Megginson will continue their training camp tweets. Megginson is now at Illinois State, so it won't be tweets from training camp roommates (like the last three years), but it still should be entertaining.

This is a critical year for those recruiting-class-of-2015 kids. They're redshirt juniors now, and redshirt juniors usually go in two directions. 1) it finally clicks and they move into the rotation on the field, or 2) it doesn't click and they don't get a fifth year because the coaches don't renew their scholarship.

What I Expect From Him:

I'll say that I'm hoping he's clearly the #6 or #7 offensive lineman tomorrow. I believe the top six are fairly set (Lowe, Allegretti, Kramer, Palcho, Boyd, and Cerny), but if he can emerge as clearly the next guy in line then he's going to play a lot this fall.

So often on The 90 Illini, when talking about offensive linemen and ranking them down in the 80's, I say the same thing: "redshirt him, get him in the weight room, feed him 4,000 calories a day, and in three years let's see what we have. Well, now it's three years for Solomon and he's entering his redshirt junior year. Let's see what we have.

38. Shaedon Meadors

Wide Receiver
transfer from Appalachian State / originally from Duncan, South Carolina
Senior (1 year to play 1)
Tom Cruises: wait, why didn't I rate him when he transferred in?

What I Know About Him:

Very little. For some reason I didn't do an LLOUI post, which means I didn't do my normal research. I learn things about these players two ways: 1) Training camp, practices, games, postgame interviews, etc., and 2) LLUOI research. I didn't do any LLUOI research, so I don't know much about him.

Well, I know he was App State's leading receiver in 2016, and then an injury kept him out of 2017, and then, after 2017, he wanted to play Power Five conference football so he transferred to Illinois.

What I Expect From Him:

There are a lot of minutes to be had at wide receiver. Or catches - there are a lot of catches to be had. Dudek and Smalling will get a lot of them, but with Malik Turner graduated, there are catches out there to be had.

And I think the guy most likely to step into that role is Meadors. Having seen some of his App State highlights, I think he can be the more physical receiver of the three starters (assuming he starts in the three-wide alongside Dudek and Smalling). They could use a physical guy, especially a blocking wide receiver, so hopefully he fills that role.

37. Kenyon Jackson

Defensive Tackle
Parkview High School / Little Rock, Arkansas
Junior (3 years to play 2)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

His father is Keith Jackson (the NFL tight end, not the recently departed beloved college football announcer), a six time Pro-Bowler in the NFL and a College Football Hall Of Famer. Keith Jackson played at Oklahoma, but his oldest son (Keith Jr) and his youngest son (Koilan) played at Arkansas (Keith grew up in and still lives in Little Rock). Kenyon was the only one who left the nest, signing with Illinois and heading to Champaign.

And he was a bit of a surprise. He wasn't very highly rated as a recruit but halfway through his true-freshman season he found himself in the starting lineup. Lovie decided to start the youth movement early so 2016 seniors Rob Bain and Chunky Clements were replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt freshman Jamal Milan and true freshman Kenyon Jackson.

What I Expect From Him:

This will be interesting to watch. Last season, Tymir Oliver (also in the 2016 class with Jackson) passed him on the depth chart. Jackson was still in the rotation, but Oliver started to get more and more snaps.

And now two four-star freshman defensive tackles arrive. If Milan and Oliver are the starters and Calvin Avery and Verdis Brown are pushing for immediately playing time, where does that leave Jackson? I think he's definitely in the rotation. The only question is whether he's the #3 guy or the #5 guy.

36. Austin Roberts

Tight End
Rice Lake High School / Rice Lake, Wisconsin
Senior (1 year to play 1)
Tom Cruises: one of three players on the current roster who verballed to Illinois before I started handing out Tom Cruises

What I Know About Him:

Talk about an unfair journey. As a high school senior, he tears his ACL. That happened during his high school season, so he wasn't exactly 100% for the start of his first training camp. That first year, he was a redshirting linebacker.

Then, his journey as a linebacker ended and his journey as a fullback began. Playing fullback in a game early in the 2016 he caught a pass in the redzone, was headed for the endzone trying to score, was tackled from a funny angle, and tore his ACL again. There's a lot of talk about Mikey Dudek and Dre Brown both tearing ACL's twice. Well, Austin Roberts is on that same list.

To make matters worse, after switching from linebacker to fullback, we bring in Rod Smith who... doesn't use a fullback.

What I Expect From Him:

So now it's linebacker turned fullback turned tight end with two ACL tears trying to find a spot in the lineup. My feelings there are similar to Bobby Walker above. How will Rod Smith use the tight ends? How much does he expect them to block? Some offensive coordinators want their tight end to be a sixth offensive lineman - is Rod Smith like that? Can Roberts do that?

A lof of these things will be learned tomorrow at training camp. So I should just wait and cover them in those posts. Right now I should go to bed. Because CAMP TOMORROW.


illlinizeeman on August 04 @ 08:59 AM CDT

Need a new #40 - no Meadors

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