Looks Like University Of Illinois - Tre'Von Riggins

Dec 20, 2019

Five December additions, four defensive linemen. I guess I haven't written the Newton LLUOI post yet, so I probably shouldn't talk about them as a collective group until I've done that, but that's what's on my mind here so that's what I'm going to write about. Because it helps us learn where Riggins and Newton might play on the defensive line.

As Lovie mentioned in the signing day press conference, they're "losing" six players from the defensive line room. I tilted my head a bit when I heard that (I thought it was just four, so does that mean there are more players leaving?), but then I did the math. From the roster going into the season...

  • Jamal Milan, Tymir Oliver, and Kenyon Jackson were all seniors.
  • Ayo Shogbonyo was a redshirt junior but is choosing to graduate with the seniors and move on.
  • Lere Oladipo was dismissed from the team in November.
  • Bobby Roundtree sustained the spinal injury this past summer.

So yes, defensive line went from "we need to replace these three defensive tackles" to "we lost two defensive ends and another defensive tackle".

Defensive end is a little easier to "replace" given that there are three seniors returning with a ton of experience (Owen Carney, Isaiah Gay, Wole Betiku). Meaning, the recruits won't be forced into action right away. Defensive tackle is another story. With Milan, Oliver, and Jackson graduating plus Oladipo dismissed, there are only three returning defensive tackles on the roster. The rotation next year will be Jamal Woods, Calvin Avery, Deon Pate, and then one of these recruits.

The most likely name for the depth chart (and the reason they went juco) - Anthony Shipton. You bring in a junior college guy in hopes that he can play right away. But it's also possible one of these freshmen finds the rotation. We should probably just two-deep this.

WDE: Gay (SR) | Coleman (rs-FR)
DT: Avery (JR) | Shipton (JR)
DT: Woods (JR) | Pate (JR)
SDE: Betiku (SR) | Carney (SR)

WDE: Coleman (SO) | Holmes (JR)
DT: Avery (SR) | Shipton (SR)
DT: Woods (SR) | Pate (SR)
SDE: Randolph (SO) | Davis (rs-FR)

WDE: Coleman (JR) | Holmes (SR)
DT: Newton (rs-SO) | McCoy (rs-SO)
DT: Okpala (JR) | Riggins (rs-SO)
SDE: Randolph (JR) | Davis (rs-SO)

That's the big picture story here. The "next" defensive line has become clear. It's more or less like this:

2020: Defensive tackle overhaul. Milan, Oliver, and Jackson leave, three juniors (Avery, Woods, and Pate) take over plus a juco guy.
2021: Defensive end overhaul. Betiku, Carney, and Gay graduate, Randolph and Coleman take over (with possible help coming from redshirt junior Ezekiel Holmes and redshirt freshman Cooper Davis)
2022: Defensive tackle overhaul again. The four seniors are gone, so bring in a fourth-year guy (Okpala) and three third-year guys (Newton, McCoy, and Riggins).

That's why this DL group was necessary. And why Riggins is very important. I see a redshirt, a backup year, and then heavily in the rotation years 3, 4, and 5 for Riggins. Which should be the blueprint for every defensive lineman forever. The Iowa and Wisconsin way.

I mentioned this in the previous post, but it's worth noting again. Adding Davis, Riggins, and Newton in the last week was a really solid close to the class. Not only because we need them for the depth charts described above, but also because they're all legitimate Big Ten recruits. Here's the Riggins path:

First off, he committed to Miami as a sophomore. At the time, according to his Twitter bio, I can find sophomore year offers from Miami, Florida, Pitt, and Tennessee. He stayed committed to Miami all the way up until this fall when his Twitter feed started to become 100% Illinois. He decommitted on November 23rd, picked Illinois December 15th, and signed on Wednesday.

When he committed to Miami, he was a top-100 recruit nationally in the sophomore class and was playing at football factory IMG Academy. The summer before his junior year, he sustained a knee injury and missed the entire season (and, obviously, fell in the rankings). He then returned to his original high school and played his senior season this fall in St. Petersburg (Lakewood HS).

All of that, to me, suggests some sleeper potential. He's still rated in the top-1000 players in the class, so he's not a sleeper sleeper, but all players without junior year film have the potential to be sleepers. It's the reason Mike Epstein was rated so lowly. Palcho too. Junior film determines your ranking, and if you don't have any because you missed the season due to injury, you're going to drop. So perhaps Riggins is a little bit underrated.

My comp here is Chunky Clements. Chunky was the same way (knee injury meant he was a bit under-ranked), but he ended up being a very solid contributor at defensive tackle. That's what Riggins should bring. Watching him on film, he even reminds me of Chunky. DE right now but destined for DT in college, powerful defensive lineman who goes through people and not around, if he was in Illinois he'd be the top defensive lineman in the state no questions asked.

All of that adds up much like the Cooper Davis LLUOI. The type of defensive linemen who can keep you in the Big Ten West hunt (provided your recruit all of the other positions just as well). So I'll stick with the same Tom Cruises as Davis.

Tre'Von Riggins - Three Tom Cruises


Groundhogday on December 20 @ 12:17 PM CST

I'd guess Okpala has to play in the DT rotation next fall. You can't get through a season with only 4 guys, so ready or not...

Robert on December 20 @ 12:45 PM CST

That was kind of the point of my "Finding A Balance" post last week. I had the same thought - "with Oladipo gone, Okpala is going to have to be ready to play as a redshirt freshman". And then I realized I'm worried about a second-year player being the fifth defensive tackle in 2020. In the 2017 Big Ten opener against Nebraska we started three true freshmen (Roundtree, Woods, and Gay) on the defensive line. Better problems to have.

Also, the point I failed to make with that post: much of that was forced upon Lovie and staff. Unless they wanted to stay on the juco train, it was going to be a deep dive into starting freshman after freshman in 2017. Now, though, it's 100% on them. If it's being rebuilt properly, they'll have a player ready to plug in to every depth chart hole.

Hhsillini on December 20 @ 04:04 PM CST

Roberto~You are usually too low on your rankings, but for this one I think you are too high. But, I’ll take it!

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