Training Camp 2018 VIII - Wednesday Practice Thoughts

Aug 08, 2018

Let's start with a 5-days-into-camp depth chart and then talk about what it means. I'll just go with a two-deep instead of my usual three-deep since there are competitions at several positions which will go right down to the week before the Kent State game (and beyond).

And this isn't the current depth chart (as in, "here's the way they lined up today"). This is my guess as to where it settles on September 1st. Just like some coaches do, I'll use "OR" for battles which have multiple players fighting it out.

QB | Bush (SR) | Thomas (SO)
RB | Epstein (SO) | Corbin (JR) -OR- D. Brown (JR) -OR- Bonner (SO)
TE | Dorsey (SO) | Walker (JR)
LT | Lowe (SO) | Cerny (rs-SO)
LG | Green (rs-FR) | Solomon (JR)
C | Kramer (rs-SO) | Gavin (rs-SO)
RG | Allegretti (SR) | Boyd (SO)
RT | Palczewski (SO) | Trainer (rs-SO)
WR-X | J. Williams (JR) | C. Green (SO) -OR- Mays (SR)
WR-Z | Smalling (SO) | Davis (JR)
WR-W | Dudek (SR) | Stampley (SO) -OR- Sandy (FR)
WDE | Gay (SO) | Carney (SO)
NT | Milan (JR) | Oladipo (rs-FR)
3DT | Oliver (JR) | Jackson (JR)
SDE | Roundtree (SO) | Woods (SO)
WLB | Hansen (rs-SO) | Tolson (FR)
MLB | Phillips (SR) | Harding (JR)
Nickel | Joseph (FR) -OR- Brown (FR) -OR- Bobak (SO) -OR- Knight (SO)
CB | Hobbs (SO) | J. Martin (FR)
SS | B. Williams (SO) | DeGroot (SO)
FS | S. Green (JR) | Smith (SO)
CB | Watkins (JR) | Adams (SO)
Kicker | McLaughin (SR) | McCourt (rs-SO)
Punter | Hayes (SO) | McCourt (rs-SO)
Long-snapper | Tabel (SO) | Gaines (FR)
Holder | Hayes (SO) | C. Miller (SO)
Punt Return | Dudek (SR) | Hobbs (SO)
KO Return | D. Brown/Hobbs | C. Green/Davis

OK, let's starts with "places where I don't feel all that comfortable with this depth chart because I'm just not sure yet":

  • Same as my last depth chart: Jamal Woods. Defensive end or defensive tackle? I have him as a defensive end here. That means Roundtree and Woods on one side, Carney and Gay on the other side. But what if Woods is better at 3DT? Or what if one of the converted linebackers (Ayo Shogbonyo or Marc Mondesir) is pushing into the rotation at WDE? Well then move Carney over to SDE and push Woods to 3DT.
  • I used the nickel here because I think Kent State will throw the ball and we'll need to be in the nickel most of the time. It appears that they recruited guys for that specific role (like Sydney Brown and Kerby Joseph), and they moved walkon running back Christian Bobak over there because they like how he tackles on special teams. AND sophomore James Knight has been working out there. Really could be any of those four guys. Right now, put me down for the freshman surprise - Kerby Joseph.
  • Jartavius Martin - corner or free safety? If he's a free safety, then slide another freshman in at that corner spot (Dylan Wyatt maybe?). It's so hard to tell with defensive backs under Lovie. He moves his defensive backs like chess pieces.
  • I'm pretty sure those are the four running backs (Epstein, Corbin, Brown, Bonner) and all will get carries at some point during the season. The number of carries for each: TBD.
  • If I had to put the five quarterbacks in order today: Bush, Thomas, Robinson, Taylor, Rivers.
  • I guess I'm a believer in Justice Williams now. Although I don't feel good about it. That sounded bad. What I mean: Odds that Mikey Dudek starts: 99.1%. Odds that Ricky Smalling starts: 98.4%. Next closest odds for the third WR starter: Justice Williams, 37% chance.
  • Honestly, ideally, the third WR spot goes to Sam Mays. A senior breakout would be so good for this team. Something like Miles Osei as a senior. Mays has made some nice catches, so it's certainly possible. But it's also possible that any of six receivers could be the third guy in the 3 WR sets.
  • With Kendrick Green holding on to a starting OL spot through five days of camp, I'm going back to my theory from the spring: Larry Boyd is groomed to be Nick Allegretti's replacement next year. Goodbye tackle, hello guard. (Just a theory.)
  • Finally watched to see who would be the backup holder (I know you were dying to know). The answer: walkon QB Cam Miller. So Blake Hayes in the main holder, Miller the backup.

Let's (finally) get to some practice thoughts:

+ Really good day for the defense I thought. When in 11 on 11, the only part the offense "won" was the goal line drill (first and ten from the 8, I believe). The offense scored on an AJ Bush scramble. a Ra'Von Bonner pitch (with a complete busted assignment from the third string D allowing Bonner to walk in with nobody 15 yards from him), and a pass to Dre Brown. Defense was in charge for the first 1:50 of practice; offense won the final 10 minutes.

And when I say "in charge" I mean winning all the facets of 11 on 11. Batting down passes at the line of scrimmage (a consistent theme the first three practices I've watched). Interceptions. Getting to the quarterback. Run-stuffing. This was the first day in pads, which means the physical side wins, and today it was the defense.

+ Watched a lot of OL stuff. Wondered aloud to myself "if Kendrick Green isn't one of the starters at guard, who is?". Answer: I'm not sure. The contenders would be juniors Adam Solomon and Zeke Martin, and (unfair or not) Solomon and Martin were Beckman recruits while Green was a Lovie recruit, and we saw last year (at nearly every position) what happened when a Lovie freshman went up against a Beckman upperclassman. So it looks like Green is going to be the guy.

+ You hear the name Kerby Joseph a lot. The coaches are constantly pushing him (in defensive drills, in special teams drills, etc.). That's usually a very good sign for a player. If they're pushing and pushing, they think you have a bright future.

+ Lere Oladipo stuck out to me today. He's the forgotten man on this team. Picked Illinois over Michigan State and Penn State, redshirted last year, is making the transition from defensive end to defensive tackle.

And he showed me enough today to take Calvin Avery off my two-deep and put Oladipo on. Still learning, still growing at the position, but starting to show signs of a future player.

+ Camp certainly isn't as ragged as it was last year with so many true freshmen in the mix. There are very few guys just learning on the fly (like last year). So practices are much more crisp.

But there's still no real wow factor yet. This is the tenth time I've covered camp for the blog, and while last year was the worst, this one is still in the bottom five. To be expected, I guess, but I was secretly hoping for some wow factor.

Maybe we'll get that tomorrow....

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Bear8287 on August 09 @ 04:17 AM CDT

Offense: 1 rs-SO + 5 SO + 1 rs-FR
Defense: 1 rs-SO + 4 SO + 1 FR

This is still a very young team and looks, on paper anyway, to be a good year away from making any noise. I'm not really seeing how a bunch of sophomores rips up a very tough B1G conference.

Something else that has stuck with me Robert was your comment from the Saturday practice:

If this was a competition between 2013 Nathan Scheelhaase and 2018 AJ Bush right now, I'd be swooning over Scheelhaase and saying how Bush just isn't there.

Spoiler alert, but that 2013 team went 4-8 and 1-7 in the B1G. It sounds like this team is still badly in need of a QB that can run an offense that can put points on the board.

Defense was in charge for the first 1:50 of practice; offense won the final 10 minutes.

Another season of close games up until half-time and then the defense runs out of gas and gets plowed under halfway through the 3rd quarter? I guess the good news was that the offense won the final 10 minutes and not the first 10 minutes?

But there's still no real wow factor yet. This is the tenth time I've covered camp for the blog, and while last year was the worst, this one is still in the bottom five. To be expected, I guess, but I was secretly hoping for some wow factor.

Yeah, we're all secretly hoping for some wow factor. Moeller had some decent defensive teams but the offense couldn't keep them off of the field. Even though Mike White didn't have a lot of wins his first season (3), the fact that he could put a team on the field that scored points (put up 42 at Ohio State that year) at least gave the fans something to cheer about.

I think that I heard that Vegas has the Illini's over/under for wins at 3 for this season? Sounds about right. Still hold some optimism that this program is going in the right direction, but also not expecting this to be a breakout season yet either. Just hoping that there will at least be some more excitement and scoring for the team.

Go Illini!

Douglascountyillinifan on August 09 @ 02:49 PM CDT

I get what you're saying, Bear, but I think 3 is too low. We hung around in several games last year, so if our QB play is remotely serviceable we can still a few more. I see 4-6, with 4 being us getting no breaks, and 6 being us getting ALL the breaks.

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