Looks Like University Of Illinois - Marcus Harper II
A blog reader came up to say hi in the stands yesterday. He asked me if I saw a team that could eventually contend in the Big Ten West out on the field. I responded by saying "well, I do see one over on the sideline here". The high school talent visiting on Saturday was the best collection of talent I've seen in Champaign in several years. And now one of them has verballed. At a huge position of need.
We've lost five offensive linemen since the end of last season. The biggest loss, of course - Nick Allegretti graduating. A few days after the Northwestern game, Zeke Martin and Adam Solomon announced that they were transferring. In January, Larry Boyd and Andrew Trainer announced they were transferring. That leaves the roster quite thin on offensive linemen. And with only two offensive linemen in the 2019 class, 2020 is going to have to make up the difference.
That's the short term - the numbers. The bigger issue here is the 2021 offensive line. Right now, the starting offensive line consists of one senior, three juniors, and one sophomore. Once that senior (Richie Petitbon) graduates, it's possible he could be replaced by another one of the current juniors, meaning we'd go into the 2020 season with four senior offensive linemen. At the very least, three.
Which means that spring of 2021, we'll be completely overhauling the offensive line. As of today, Kendrick Green is the only starter we know on that 2021 line. Adding Marcus Harper as the first recruit in this class is a big step towards having multiple options for that 2021 line.
Let's start with that list. Adding Harper, we now have these options for that line:
2021 Seniors: Kendrick Green, Jake Stover (walkon)
2021 RS-Juniors: Jordyn Slaughter, Kievan Myers, Julian Pearl, Verdis Brown
2021 RS-Sophomores: Evan Kirts, Josh Plohr
2021 RS-Freshmen: Marcus Harper II
The most likely scenario right now, in my mind, would be that Stover takes over as the starting center for a year, Green is still the starting left guard, and then the other three spots are filled by three of the four redshirt juniors (Slaughter, Myers, Pearl, and Brown). But we need more options than that, and with both OL recruits in the 2019 class being project projects, we need a few recruits who might be able to pull a Kendrick Green - a high three-star (or four-star) who can be ready to start as a redshirt freshman.
Enter Marcus Harper II. I always say that offers don't matter at this time of year - hundreds of P5 recruits won't have any offers until the coaches hit the road starting April 15 - but when a kid does have this many offers, it's a good sign. My date for paying attention to offer lists is July 1, but this April 7th offer list is very impressive:
Before getting ahead of myself, I should pause to note that this is offensive line recruiting. There's no bigger crapshoot. Our best offensive line recruit in the 2015 and 2016 classes was the lowest-ranked recruit in either class - Doug Kramer. Sometimes, 4-stars bust and 2-stars shine. You're recruiting for body development, mostly. Find massive frames that can move really well and can handle 65 more pounds with ease. Teach them the techniques necessary to compete in the Big Ten. And then go see what you have.
Not trying to be a downer when I say that - "we get a lineman with Nebraska and Oregon offers and Robert plays the crapshoot card" - just saying that this is offensive line we're talking about here. I feel 85% solid about my defensive back Tom Cruise ratings - I feel 45% certain about my offensive line ratings.
On film, yes, he can move. Yes, he can maul. He played at Homewood-Flossmoor last season (he'll be at Simeon this fall), and Homewood-Flossmoor plays a solid schedule, so these are not scrubs he's dominating. In fact, in the film on the Barrington game, I'm pretty sure he's lined up across from another kid I saw at practice yesterday, Lukas Van Ness. So this is dependable film, and he looks good.
My main thought here: we need at least four offensive linemen in this class, preferably two who can be ready their second season if need be. So this is a great start. He looks like he's exactly that guy. Big frame already, solid technique, probably will be ready sooner (as a redshirt freshman) rather than later. Solid get.
Given all of that, I think this is clearly a 3.5 Cruiser. OL is still a crapshoot, but size, film, and offers are all there for this kid.
Marcus Harper II - three and one half Tom Cruises