Class Balance

Nov 26, 2019

I'm just a tiny bit focused on the 2021 roster cliff. We're bowling, the next step is a better season next year, and then the third step is to survive the graduation of all those seniors. So I put together a roster by class last night and found some interesting things.

Right to it: I think we're redshirting more than just the freshmen. I think, in the background, Lovie is balancing the classes. I started looking at individual players we haven't seen on the field much this fall - players who have played a lot on special teams the last few years - and I realized that they weren't passed up for their special teams spots. They're likely redshirting. Which players?

  • James Knight played in 12 games in 2017, 7 games last season, and 0 this season. He had a knee injury in spring ball and I'm guessing they just shut him down. So that one might be more injury based.
  • Marc Mondesir played in 11 games in 2017, 10 games in 2018, and 3 this year. He can play in one more game and still redshirt.
  • Kendall Smith played in 12 games in 2017, 10 games in 2018, and 2 in 2019. He can play in both the Northwestern game and the bowl game and still redshirt.
  • Carlos Sandy played in 10 games last season and 0 games this season. That might be injury related, but it might also be a second-year redshirt.
  • Nick Walker played in 6 games last season an 3 games this season. As a Juco who arrived with 4 seasons to play 3 years, he could take a redshirt this year. (He also had to play against Iowa because of several injuries and he might have to play in the next two games as well.)
  • Chase Brown was eligible to play after his NCAA Waiver was cleared. He played in four games... and has sat since. He can redshirt and save a year of eligibility.
  • Dylan Wyatt played in 10 games last season and 0 this season. That might be injury related, but it also might be a second-year redshirt.

And that's just the upperclassmen. If you follow the redshirt chart I put on Twitter each week, you know that we're playing serious redshirt games. Keith Randolph and Kyron Cumby both got to four games played and stopped - they've sat since, preserving their redshirts. Nick Fedanzo, Shammond Cooper, and Seth Coleman are all at three games played and can keep their redshirts. Isaiah Williams is at two games played, so he's already officially redshirting.

Now, some of this might just be depth chart stuff. Carlos Sandy might not have played because other receivers have passed him and he's not pushed his way onto the special teams rotations. There might be some players who transfer for lack of playing time. It wasn't a redshirt season - it was a "not in the rotation here - guess I'll look elsewhere" season. (And if that's the case, I'd expect them to look at transfers to fill those scholarships.)

But the class depth has gotten very interesting. I've been talking about the "30 seniors" next year for a long time, but that's now changed. As of now, with some of those juniors returning as redshirt juniors next season, it's 24 scholarship seniors. Which means the classes look like this (scholarship players only):

Seniors playing in their final regular season game on Saturday: 11
Juniors: 24
Sophomores: 17
Freshmen: 19
Redshirting Freshmen: 12

Starters-wise, 2021 is still a cliff. I'm guessing there are 14 senior starters on next year's team. But roster-wise, it's... being reduced? What was something like 30 seniors, 11 juniors next year is now 24 and 17 (need to factor in Donny Navarro going on scholarship there as well). And if you just look at the future classes (again, all of this will change with attrition and with graduate transfers and with regular transfers and everything else), here is how it currently sets up.

Let's say there are six true freshmen who play next year. Thompson, Love, and Frenchie are in the offensive rotation right away and then McCoy and two of the December defensive recruits also play in more than four games. They would join these 12 players who are redshirting in the freshman class (Beason, Cooper, Williams, Okpala et. al.) to make up the "players who will be seniors in 2023". Which means that after the 24 seniors graduate a year from now, the classes will go:

2021: 17 seniors
2022: 19 seniors
2023: 18 seniors

Again, that all changes with attrition (numbers go down) and addition (Grad Transfer U). But, after 11, 9, and 8 seniors these last three seasons, followed by what was, at one time, 31 seniors, we're moving back towards the balanced classes train. Is that enough to survive the 2021 cliff? Not on its own. Losing 14 starters is losing 14 starters. But it's a big step towards balance after that.

And, to me, it's encouraging to see the staff addressing it. Sure, some of these players might place their names in the transfer portal a week from today. But it also might be true that they agreed to sophomore and junior year redshirts in order to better balance the classes. If true, a junior-year-spent-in-the-weight-room Marc Mondesir could really benefit the 2021 team like a bulked-up Ayo Shogbonyo has helped this 2019 team. And that's not even mentioning the benefit of redshirting Cooper, Cumby, Coleman, Williams et. al. - the majority of the 2019 recruiting class.

So that's my November 2019 update on The Cliff. Next up, hopefully a few jucos in the 2020 class to further lessen the cliff. Actually, I didn't think of this until right now, but Lavar Gardner (still need to get to his LLUOI) factors in as well. He joins those 2021 seniors, so Senior Day will go 18-19-18 after next year's 24.

The 2021 cliff. A little less steep every day.


Brave Illini on November 26 @ 04:53 PM CST

Great analysis, as usual. We fans are fortunate to have you do what you do. It seems you could be a valuable addition to the AD's staff as an analyst.

ktal on November 26 @ 08:02 PM CST

If the entire AD's staff aren't already subscribers, they should click that little blue ticket in the bottom right, and sign up!

IBFan on November 26 @ 08:23 PM CST

Thanks Robert! Awesome timing as we had a large group of fans, alumni, and family get together, a get together before the holidays together the other night. Probably the most contentious debate was Lovie and one decent year, one good to follow, and then the cliff. The numbers of players leaving, forced out, injured, redshirting, won’t sign, recruited over....needed a Robert referee...not any referee responsible for the asinine lack of call against Peters. (Shameful, how under the review process is this possible?) Though you weren’t there in the flesh, many a Robertism, Robstat, Robworry was quoted. Evidently there are also other people out there that write about the beloved, I’ve never heard of them and their sites are worthless, they dont seem to have the pulse of the team even though I’ve never visited said sites.
Anyways, for a few of us, we had all the ammo we needed with a redshirt chart, class balance numbers, and the projected depth charts all the way thru 2030 with an article on each. Thanks again.

DB50 on November 27 @ 12:03 PM CST

Echoing your sentiments on the what should have been at the least been a personal foul & more likely a textbook targeting call against Geno Stone of Iowa, for his hit on Peters reminded me of Lovie’s words, “if that’s not targeting, then I don’t know what is”. In a 2015 game at Kinnick, Geronimo Allison was injured, helmet to helmet hit, after a reception by another Iowa DB.

DB50 on November 27 @ 12:04 PM CST

I forgot to mention about the hit on Allison, as you might guess, no foul.

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