Looks Like University Of Illinois - Shammond Cooper
Let's just get this out of the way. When you look at Shammond Cooper's recruiting bio online, under visits, it still says he's visiting Florida State on January 25th. Until that visit doesn't happen, or until that visit does happen yet he sticks with the Illini, I can't really go all OMG YOU GUYS. I really, really want to OMG YOU GUYS, but I just can't yet. I have to protect my heart.
So this LLUOI will be a bit subdued. My celebration will happen when he signs on the first Wednesday in February, but you won't get to see that celebration happen here. This one will have to have a "if he does sign, then..." tone.
We shall start with this. A few weeks ago I wrote about the influx of talent between the signees and the transfers. It's a small class, but there's some talent there. When you add that together with the players who didn't play this fall but will play next fall (Larry Boyd, Verdis Brown, Milo Eifler), then there's a significant amount of talent being added to the field that wasn't there when the clock hit 0:00 at Northwestern six weeks ago.
Here's the list from that post. I've added Cooper (and Jeff Thomas). When you go by recruiting ranking (composite score) for each individual player, here are the top 15 players on the 2019 roster. Bold if they weren't on the field last season.
1. Jeff Thomas .9807
2. Marquez Beason .9613
3. Isaiah Williams .9502
4. Milo Eifler .9368
5. Calvin Avery .9174
6. Shammond Cooper .9027
7. Verdis Brown .8944
8. Ricky Smalling .8868
9. Kendrick Green .8801
10. Dre Brown .8744
11. Moses Okpala .8784
12. Keith Randolph .8739
13. Larry Boyd .8721
14. Owen Carney .8695
15. Coran Taylor .8580
Add Luke Ford (articles yesterday said that he was likely to transfer to Illinois), and that's 11 of the 16 best players on the roster making their debut next fall. Well, 10 of the best 16, plus Larry Boyd returning to the field after an academic sit-out season. If we leave off Boyd and Coran Taylor (who was on the 2018 roster but redshirting), here's what's being added:
- Jeff Thomas, a high four-star WR who had two productive seasons at Miami* (*waiver pending)
- Marquez Beason, a four-star athlete who will likely end up at cornerback.
- Isaiah Williams, a four-star athlete who will be put at quarterback but who played wide receiver in the Under Armour All American Game tonight.
- Milo Eifler, a four-star linebacker who transferred in from Washington last season and sat out this season.
- Shammond Cooper, a four-star freshman linebacker.
- Verdis Brown, a four-star lineman (probably defensive lineman, but maybe offensive lineman) who sat out this past season for academic reasons.
- Moses Okpala, a high three-star defensive end
- Keith Randolph, a high three-star defensive end
Desperately needed linebacker help - added two four-stars. Desperately needed wide receiver help, added Thomas plus a few four-star ATH's who might end up there. These are very positive developments.
Again, I should note that the small class hurts here. It's great to add Beason, Williams, Cooper, Okpala, and Randolph, but we needed about 10 of those guys in this class and we only added five. This is football, remember, so numbers are everything. We're still not where we need to be depth-wise, and this is Lovie's third class.
Still, having three players in the Under Armour All American Game tonight is a significant thing. There are two main high school all-star games (Under Armour and the US Army All American Bowl), and here are the Illini participants in the 2010's:
2010: no one
2011: no one
2012: no one
2013: no one
2014: Nick Allegretti, US Army All American
2015: no one
2016: Milo Eifler, US Army All American
2017: Jeff Thomas, Under Armour All American
2018: Calvin Avery, Verdis Brown - Under Armour All Americans
2019: Isaiah Williams, Marquez Beason, Shammond Cooper - Under Armour All Americans
I want to stress it again - this is football. You need more than just seven great recruits. Basketball can be done with just a few great players - we just watched Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan pretty much beat Illinois basketball by themselves tonight - but football requires five great linebackers, not one. Football does need impact players, though (every sport does), so this recent run of All American game participants is a very positive development.
OK, let's talk about Cooper. I think the main three linebacker spots will look something like this:
2018: Del'Shawn Phillips, Jake Hansen, Dele Harding
2019: Milo Eifler, Jake Hansen, Dele Harding
2020: Milo Eifler, Jake Hansen, Shammond Cooper
And then Cooper is the anchor in 2021 and 2022. He gets one year as the understudy (in 2019) and then three years as a starter. The future of this defense is significantly better with him at linebacker.
The last time we added a four-star linebacker? (Besides Eifler of course, who was a transfer.) Martez Wilson in 2007 (who was listed as a five-star defensive end but we put him at linebacker). That's 12 recruiting classes without a four-star linebacker. So yeah, this is a big deal.
On film, he shows the instincts and the agility that we desperately need on defense. He's a little thin, so his first season will be all about adding size and strength. He reminds me a lot of Jonathan Brown, who seemed a little thin on film but bulked up and was a very solid linebacker from 2010 to 2013. I think Cooper can be better. (You know, as long as he signs that piece of paper on February 6th.)
Tom Cruises? A very solid four Cruises here. He's not in that Williams/Beason/Thomas five Cruise stratosphere, and he's maybe a step below Calvin Avery's 4.5 Cruises, but he's way ahead of so many recent recruits. You can win a lot of football games with four Tom Cruisers.
Shammond Cooper. Four Tom Cruises.