2019 Recruiting Class Summary

Feb 08, 2019

I already wrote the long Signing Day Summary back in December. And this year, we only added two recruits during the February signing period. So for this post I think I'll go with an evaluation of the class as a whole. When you add Shammond Cooper and {insert player name here} to the mix, how does this recruiting class stack up?

I'll start with that evaluation. And I'll cheat to make things look better because when the coach hires his son and more coaches leave (more on that tomorrow), I need something to cling to. So I'm going to add all of the transfers to this class and see how it stacks up.

Why is that cheating? Because it's going to claim that Alabama transfer Richie Petitbon is a top-100 player when clearly he's not. He couldn't crack the starting lineup at Alabama over four years, so he's fifth-year transferring to Illinois. Not only would he be ranked much lower if the class was re-ranked based on college production, we also only get one year from him. When Ohio State signs some four-star lineman ranked where Petibon was ranked, they get him for 4/5 years.

So, yes, this is kind of cheating. But I still think it's worth noting. It's impossible to rank a class of 13 players and compare it to classes with 24 players when it's a "total points" kind of system. The main reason we've only signed 13 players is because we've also added four transfers (one over the summer, three this winter) so let's dig up the recruiting profiles for each and add them to our point total.

+ Current point total on 24/7's composite rankings: 175.54. That ranks dead last in the Big Ten and 63rd nationally.

+ Current average player rating: 86.79. That ranks 29th nationally and 7th in the Big Ten.

Using their "class calculator", I'll add four players with equal ratings to the four transfers (you can't add players from other recruiting classes using the class calculator, so I'll need to find a 2019 player who matches Luke Ford's .9753 score from last year). Those matches:

Luke Ford (.9753) - Jake Smith, WR headed to Texas (.9752)
Milo Eifler (.9368) - Cameron Smith, CB headed to South Carolina (.9366)
Richie Petitbon (.9696) - Jonah Tauanu'u, OL headed to Oregon (.9695)
AD Miller (.8524) - Niko Hea, TE headed to Missouri (.8523)

So, add those four to our class and here's the updated numbers:

+ Point total: 224.19, which would move us from 14th to 6th in the Big Ten and from 63rd nationally to 26th.

+ Average player rating: 88.33, which would be 22nd nationally.

Again, Milo Eifler is probably not equal to that 4-star cornerback headed to South Carolina (although, yes, he might not crack the rotation at South Carolina and transfer to Kent State, so every class has some busts baked in). We already have the answer on Petitbon, Miller, and Eifler (couldn't make the rotation at their blue blood program, transferred down to Illinois). Luke Ford, I think, isn't in that category. But for the other three, they didn't live up to that ranking. I should clarify that further. Petitbon and Eifler didn't live up to their rankings. Miller probably did (mid three-star) but was overtaken by a dozen blue chip WR recruits. And Ford transferred after one year to be closer to his family so the football jury is still out.

But I think this gives us a more accurate look at this class. It was small to begin with and then made smaller because we added transfers. It contains some of our highest-rated recruits of the decade. Even without this transfer math, the class is 29th nationally in average player rating. It's certainly the class with the most potential since 2009. If you add Ford, Petitbon, Eifler, and Miller, it's suddenly the 26th-best class in the country. You know, theoretically.

But that's not the important rating. The important rating is where we stack up Cruise-wise. So let's go through the full class, with 11 of these 13 being cut-and-pasted from the December post, and then we'll list the average Cruises from the last three classes.

If you read that December breakdown, you can just skip down to Shammond Cooper (under "Immediate Impact Players") and Tarique Barnes (under "Projects") and then read on.

Immediate Impact Players

Isaiah Williams
Trinity Catholic High School / St. Louis Missouri
5 Tom Cruises

I had never given out five Tom Cruises to a football player before. And then in the span of three weeks, I gave out five Cruises to two players (Williams and Beason).

Not really sure what I need to say here to describe this. He's one of the ten best Illini recruits the last 20 years. Everyone offered him. The four teams in the playoff in a few weeks? Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, Oklahoma? All four offered Williams.

Why Illinois? Because A) we hired his HS coach and mentor, and B) we offered him as a QB. Shorter (5'-9") guys like Williams get ATH offers at Alabama, not QB offers. He wants to play QB, so that's what we offered him. This summer, he'll battle with MJ Rivers, Matt Robinson, and Coran Taylor for the starting spot on August 31.

Marquez Beason
Duncanville High School / Duncanville, Texas
5 Tom Cruises

Yet another 5 Cruiser. Again, I'm not sure what I should say here. You already know everything about him. Runs a 10.46 in the 100 (and is somehow the second-fastest guy in this recruiting class). Will likely return every single punt for the next 3-4 seasons. Can play corner, can play WR, might play both. One of the top-10 Illini recruits of the last 20 years.

Seriously, I think I pay these guys a bigger compliment when I don't write about them. It's self-explanatory.

Shammond Cooper
Trinity Catholic High School / St. Louis, Missouri
4 Tom Cruises

Can I just take this moment to point out again how wrong I was about the Cory Patterson hire? Dude comes in and lands Williams and Cooper AND Oklapa AND Randolph. He killed it. I was so, so wrong.

Cooper + Eifler reduces my linebacker angst significantly. I was so nervous last spring. And then we land a transfer from Washington and a 4-star from St. Louis. And that's important. Cooper is the highest-rated linebacker to pick Illinois in a dozen years. And Eifler was a four-star as well. Really, really huge for the future of the defense.

Great Gets

Moses Okpala
Defensive End
Ladue High School / Ladue, Missouri
3.5 Tom Cruises

We really needed help along the defensive line in this class, and the first three players here under "Great Gets" fit the bill. I feel like I just wrote about him (because I did), so here's what I said in that post:

OK, so what are we getting in Okpala besides "a very large 18 year-old" (6'-7", 260-ish right now). Mostly, this is a raw material recruit. He's not a polished football player because he hasn't been playing football for a long time. Again, this reminds me of Jihad Ward. Ward was a wide receiver in high school grew and grew and grew at junior college, and ended up at defensive end but not knowing how to play defensive end. That first camp for Ward (August of 2014) he was very, very raw (i.e. had no idea what he was doing yet), but you can't teach massive arms and massive shoulders swatting people out of the way.

So the path for Okpala will be similar. Teach him how to use his size. There are about 137 specific little techniques you need to learn if you want to play defensive end, so next year at camp will be a big training session for Okpala.

Keith Randolph
Defensive Lineman
Belleville West High School / Belleville, Illinois
3.5 Tom Cruises

I haven't written the LLOUI post (he just picked Illinois a few hours ago), but spoiler alert: he'll be getting 3.5 Cruises. I got really nervous last night when Florida State offered him. I'm sure their pitch was "here's an offer - don't sign tomorrow, come visit us in January, and then sign in February", but he stuck with his press conference announcement and picked the Illinois hat.

It looked like he was all set to pick Illinois in the summer (over Minnesota and Wyoming), but then he began to blow up. Michigan State offered, Iowa offered, Purdue offered, Virginia offered, and (last night) Florida State offered. His Crystal Ball flipped to Michigan State, and he visited there, and I thought he was as good as gone, but then a visit to Illinois last weekend apparently moved him back into our column. Good work, everyone.

Seth Coleman
Defensive End
Holy Trinity Academy / Melbourne, Florida
3 Tom Cruises

I'm choosing to use my once-per-class re-ranking on Coleman. I gave him two Tom Cruises in July when he verballed, mostly based on offer lists and a little sophomore film that was out there (Coleman didn't play high school football as a junior). He played high school football as a senior, and his film is great, so I'm bumping him from two Tom Cruises to three.

And this was a great save. He, too blew up this fall. When he committed, we were his only real offer. This fall he got offers from Nebraska, TCU, Pitt, Utah, Baylor, and others. He visited Baylor and Utah, and as of yesterday his Crystal Ball started flipping to Utah. But someone made the save, and here he is, signed to Illinois.

And that's very important because we needed a weakside DE in this class more than we needed a strongside DE. We needed that quick twitch DE who can also maybe drop into coverage if he has to, and that's the type of player he is.

Kyron Cumby
Running Back
Plano High School / Plano, Texas
3 Tom Cruises

I'll never not want to post this gif. It's maybe my favorite Hudl gif I've ever created:

That's world class speed right there. And I'm not just making that up. In a high school track meet last spring, Cumby ran a 10.38 in the 100. That's up there with the five fastest players we've ever recruited. Perhaps even the fastest? That's college track scholarship fast.

The problem: he's 5'-7" tall. So the question will follow him his entire college career - is he too short for Big Ten football?

Nice Finds

Joseph Thompson
Phillips High School / Chicago, Illinois
2.5 Tom Cruises

This category is usually full of a bunch of players. It's typically the most-used category in these posts. For this class, there's only one player here. Truly a "four-stars and projects" class. That's would be great for basketball, but this is football.

Thompson was originally committed to Iowa State but flipped to Illinois (and stuck). He's that longer, lankier cornerback that Lovie loves (and, like Tony Adams, he might end up at free safety).

This is probably the redshirt line. I think all of the players above might play (maybe only two of the three defensive ends). I think all of the players below will redshirt.


Nick Fedanzo
Running Back
Montini High School / Lombard, Illinois
2 Tom Cruises

It feels like we've clearly dropped to the project line. Offer-wise, flim-wise, ratings-wise, these four players are firmly in the "projects" category.

That's not to say they won't become solid players. Iowa completes about 10 project per year, it seems. In fact Fedanzo is a very Iowa recruit. Best athlete at his school, leads his team to the state title game, if he doesn't make it as a running back there are several other spots where he could be useful. But clearly a project.

Griffin Moore
Tight End
Bloomington High School / Bloomington, Illinois
2 Tom Cruises

He's a high school quarterback who will play tight end (Matt LaCosse!). Or maybe he's a high school quarterback who ends up as an offensive tackle (David Edwards at Wisconsin!). Maybe he's a high school quarterback who plays defensive end (can't think of an example).

Or maybe it's as simple as "this is the kind of tight end Rod Smith wants for this offense". They offered (and accepted his verbal) very early.

Casey Washington
Wide Receiver
Pflugerville High School / Pflugerville, Texas
1.5 Tom Cruises

I gave him 1.5 Tom Cruises. Someone sent it to him. He responded by saying this:

Wouldn't be where I am today without people like this. This fuels my fire:) keep it up Robert! pic.twitter.com/X10mw38T29

-- Casey Washington (@cwash82) September 10, 2018

Honestly, I dig that. My opinion stands. I'm just not seeing a Big Ten receiver there. But I'm glad to be his motivation. As I said in the screencap he tweeted there, go prove me wrong, kid.

Evan Kirts
Offensive Lineman
Brother Rice High School / Chicago, Illinois
1.5 Tom Cruises

I considered one Cruise here. Another "just not seeing it" recruit. This one is a three-year project, in my estimation.

Which is fine, I guess. The starting spots are locked up on the 2019 and 2020 offensive lines, and I'm pretty sure every player on the 2021 offensive line was on the roster this fall. So if the next available spot is in 2022, well, then we have all the time we need for this three-year project.

Tarique Barnes
East High School / Memphis, Tennessee
1.5 Tom Cruises

I just wrote the LLUOI for Barnes so I just watched his film. And as I mentioned in that post, his junior film was much better than his senior film. In fact, whoever put his film together (these days it's mostly the kinds themselves) took several big plays from his junior film and spliced them in with his senior film. And they were the best plays.

That's always a concern for me. Senior film needs to be better than junior film. If it's not, there's an issue. Sometimes it's as simple as "was out of shape for football due to an injury" or whatever. But for me, that film puts Barnes down here in the "projects" list.


Here's the average Cruises of the first three Lovie classes. This number was originally 2.95 in December and then we added Shammond Cooper (who I gave 4 Cruises) and Tarique Barnes (who I gave 1.5 Cruises), so the average dips a little bit to 2.92.

2017: 2.82
2018: 2.54
2019: 2.92

Average Cruises of the Cubit class was something like 2.23, so I think I can easily say that quality-wise, this is the best class of players Lovie will have to work with. It's small, and it's top-heavy, but it's a solid class.

Asamoah Award

Every year I give out this award to the lower-rated recruit who I think will be great college player. It used to be an award for 2-star recruits, like the namesake (2-star Jon Asamoah who clearly looked like a future star to me). But there aren't really any 2-stars anymore (grade inflation), so I had to switch to "lower-rated recruit".

Two years ago the award went to Mike Epstein. Last year, my guy Jartavius Martin (who ended up starting eight games at corner as a true freshman). This year... this year is tough. The winner is very clear to me. This player didn't play football as a junior, but when you watch his senior film, you see an All Big Ten performer. And up until last week, he was a 2-star on Rivals and a low 3-star on 24/7.

But then 24/7 up and made him a four-star. So can I really give a guy the award if one of the services bumped him to four-star? My answer is yes. He's still a two-star on Rivals (like, an actual two star), so he might be the first 4-star/2-star recruit in years. 3-stars extend into the 2000's now, so basically one service is saying he's the 300th-best player in the country and the other service is saying he's somewhere around #2349.

So because Rivals still has him as a 2-star and signing day is over, I'm going with it. The most underrated player in this class is clearly Seth Coleman.


Groundhogday on February 08 @ 08:49 PM CST

Well, that might explain why so many programs backed off Barnes Let's hope we did our hwk on this one.

John Case on February 10 @ 12:52 AM CST

I've said it, I've said and I'm I'm saying it again right now. Please show me a WR recruit not named Mike Dudek in the last 15 years who has high school film making the catches Washington does. Give me just one. Rejus NEVER made those kinds of catches on his HS tape. Only other one, and I doubt many can remember was a kid that caught a lot of balls for a lot of yards as a freshman and went to play baseball after. Look at the film people. Its all there.

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