2021 Three Deep
The tradition around here is to go through next year's depth chart during the bye week. I already did that during our first bye week in September. Since this is a two bye-week season, what to do during the second one? A 2021 three deep, of course.
If you want to go through the 2020 depth chart, it's located here. There have been a lot of changes since that depth chart (Tony Adams to corner, Quan Martin to safety, the emergence of Donny Navarro, etc.), but that's where we stood in September. Now, let's look at the season after next season. You know, the one where 30 seniors graduate and phase two of the rebuild begins.
When the Illini take the field in Dublin to take on Nebraska, here's the depth chart I see. Players not currently on the roster in italics. And keep in mind, any freshmen in the 2021 class, well, we don't know their names yet. And Lovie has proven he'll play freshmen right away in rebuilding years, so expect at least eight names to find their way onto at least the two-deep.
QB | Williams (rs-SO) | Robinson (JR) | Taylor (JR) | Dixon (rs-FR)
RB | Epstein (rs-SR) | C. Brown (rs-JR) | Love (SO) | Norwood (rs-JR)
TE1 | Ford (rs-JR) | Moore (rs-SO) | Pihlstrom (SR-walkon)
TE2 | Barker (SR) | B. Barnes (JR-walkon) | unknown
LT | Slaughter (rs-JR) | Kirts (rs-SO) | Sparks (rs-FR)
LG | Myers (rs-JR) | Tyler (rs-FR) | unknown
C | K. Green (SR) | Engel (SR-walkon) | unknown
RG | V. Brown (rs-JR) | Plohr (rs-SO) | unknown
RT | Pearl (rs-JR) | Griffin (rs-FR) | Cronin (rs-SO walkon)
WR-drag | Navarro (SR) | Cumby (rs-SO) | J. Holmes (SR-walkon)
WR-deep | Washington (JR) | Frenchie (rs-SO) | Sandy (SR)
WR-dig | Thompson (SO) | Campbell (JR) | Carter (rs-JR)
WDE | Coleman (rs-SO) | E. Holmes (rs-JR) | unknown
DT | Woods (SR) | McCoy (rs-FR) | unknown
DT | Avery (SR) | Pate (SR) | Oladipo (SR)
SDE | Randolph (JR) | Okpala (rs-SO) | unknown
WLB | Tolson (SR) | Cooper (rs-SO) | Coghlan (JR-walkon)
MLB | Barnes (JR) | McEachern (SR-walkon) | unknown
SLB | D. Smith (SR) | Meed (SO-walkon) | Di Iorio (SO-walkon)
CB | Witherspoon (JR) | Thompson (rs-SO) | unknown
SS | S. Brown (SR) | Joseph (SR) | Schultz (rs-SO-walkon)
FS | Ware (SR) | Martin (SR) | Judd (rs-SO-walkon)
CB | Beason (rs-SO) | Wyatt (rs-JR) | unknown
Kicker | Griffin (rs-JR)
Punter | Another Aussie
Longsnapper | Hall (rs-SO) ~OR~ Rossback (rs-SO)
Holder | Judd (rs-SO-walkon)
Punt Return | Holmes (SR-walkon) | Cumby (rs-SO)
KO Return | Norwood (rs-JR) | Love (SO)
- I included Lere Oladipo because he's still on the roster. Obviously, if the accusations his girlfriend made public are proven to be true (currently being investigated by the Title IX office), he will not be with the team.
- Please keep in mind that this is a depth chart two years in advance. Seeing the word "unknown" shouldn't scare you on the third string because I can only make this list using the current sophomores and freshmen. There's the rest of the 2020 class and the entire 2021 class (plus any transfers arriving between now and then, and there will be transfers) yet to be added. That being said, if you see the word "unknown" somewhere, we should be addressing it with the scholarships left in this current class and DEFINITELY with the scholarships in the 2021 class.
- I don't think I emphasized this point enough. There are currently 30 scholarship juniors on the roster. They will all be vacating their scholarships in 2021. That means the pool of scholarship players to pick from here - trying to fill 72 spots - is 55 players. Just by pure numbers, there's going to be a large number of "unknowns" above. There are concerns, but it's not "we really should have addressed X before now" because if we had, there'd be an "unknown" at another position. I only have 55 players (54, actually) to spread around here plus the eight commits. This is the reason no one does three-deeps. Especially mid-season with the 2020 class not filled out and 30 scholarship seniors next year. It's going to appear more alarming than it is. There's still 35-40 names we're going to learn between now and Dublin.
- THAT SAID, there's still some alarms going off. Specifically along the lines. If Oladipo is gone, then defensive line, specifically "guys who might play defensive end", is extremely thin. Probably the thinnest position on that roster. Really need to address DE with the remaining scholarships in this class.
- Quarterback is anyone's guess at this point. I could honestly make a case for any of those four guys listed there. Dixon is the most like Peters if they want to keep the offense the same. Williams was brought in to be The One. Robinson will know the offense better than anyone and will be a fourth-year junior. Taylor is the forgotten guy no one is talking about and might surprise by then. There are options, and that's a good thing, but right now, I don't really see a clear favorite.
- Offensive line will be very interesting. If Verdis Brown wins the starting RG spot next year (Petitbon graduates), then the returning starters will be Green and Brown. Then it's wide open for three new starters in 2021. I'm going with the 2018 class guys who will all be redshirt juniors by then: Slaughter, Myers, and Pearl.
One more thing: let's use this to project the rest of this 2020 recruiting class. Before any attrition, I show four scholarships available right now. Let's assume attrition of four players after the season, so eight scholarships going out for to complete the class (both incoming freshmen and transfers). Looking at the above, I would say they need to go to:
Linebacker, hopefully MLB
OK, that's enough looking ahead. Gonna get back to researching every bowl projection in existence.