The 90 Illini - 55 ~ 51


Robert
Jul 22, 2019
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It's already such a mess. I covered Ron Hardge (#61) and Brandon Jones (#80) already, and now they've left the team. Had someone in the top-55 left the team, I'd have room to slide in Josh Imatorbhebhe, the WR transfer from USC. But as of today, there's still not a spot for him (I held a spot on the list for a transfer QB and just called it "transfer QB" until we found out Brandon Peters was the name).

So maybe I could do the whole "25a" and "25b" thing people suggested? My objection to that was that the list wouldn't then be The Ninety Illini, it would be The Ninety One Illini. But with Hardge and Jones gone, it would be... oh crap.... The 89 Illini. I'm never going to win.

55. Jordan Holmes

Wide Receiver - #84
Columbia High School / Columbia, Illinois
Sophomore walkon (4 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: unrated - walkon

Note: I'm finally including numbers. The roster updated last week and so we know all of the new numbers for the freshmen + the changed numbers for the returnees.

What I Know About Him:

There are nine walkons on the list this year, and there are still four more names I haven't gotten to. What a long strange trip it's been with Lovie and walkons. From walking on campus his first spring and cutting two-thirds of the walkons (my guess, at the time, was that his NFL background said "why is this guy practicing with my team if he has zero chance to play?") and now a very large walkon program that has "produced" guys like Holmes.

I say "produced" in quotes because you might not know Holmes. That true freshman out there returning a few punts in Big Ten games after the starting returners had fumble problems? Jordan Holmes. He had two catches (one against Western Illinois, one against Wisconsin) and three punt returns including a 13-yard return at Maryland. These are not overwhelming statistics... but they are for a true freshman walkon.

Holmes had an offer from Air Force but decided he wanted to walk on at Illinois. And then he played in 10 games, caught passes, and returned punts. And Lovie got to see why a vibrant walkon program can be very important in the Big Ten (I think Lovie had already learned that lesson after his first season because the walkon numbers increased substantially).

What I Expect From Him:

He was the best receiver in the spring game. There were no statistics kept, but I was there, and... he was the best receiver in the spring game. That probably means I have him too low on this list.

Lovie also brought in several transfers to catch the football, so there will definitely be a reshuffling at camp. Which means that maybe I have Holmes too high. He's one of 15 guys fighting for around 6-7 spots, so the catches will be hard to come by. And there are a few freshmen (Kyron Cumby or Marquez Beason) who might grab the punt return job, so his chances there might be less as well.

But overall, this is a walkon who pushed his way onto the field immediately. I think it's more likely that he plays than sits.

54. Griffin Palmer

Tight End - #81
DeSmet High School / St. Louis, Missouri
Junior (2 years to play 2)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

His dad played tight end at Iowa, his brother is at Miami (OH), and he flipped to Illinois from Miami (OH). So put him down for "from a football family". We offered him 11 minutes after Eric Eshoo from Loyola picked Northwestern, and he immediately flipped from Miami to Illinois.

He also had what I believe was the only receiving touchdown in the spring game - a catch at the five, a stretch for the goal line, and then the celebration picture you see above. Hopefully that spring game was his mini breakout moment and now he's ready to contribute.

What I Expect From Him:

He's the player who inherited the spotlight when it was announced that Luke Ford's appeal was denied and Ford would have to sit for the 2019 season. With a few seniors graduating at tight end and Ford not eligible to play, that means the TE rotation will be senior walkon Bobby Walker, sophomore part-time-starter-last-year Daniel Barker, and junior-who-hasn't-played-much Griffin Palmer.

So if there's a non-QB player on this entire roster who could best impact the team with a big step forward, it's probably Palmer. Go back to his LLUOI post and I'm sure I said something like "only 1.5 Cruises but redshirt him, teach him the position, and let's see what we have in 2019". Well, it's 2019 and time to see what we have.

53. Deon Pate

Defensive Lineman - #98
Trinity Christian Academy / Jacksonville, Florida
Redshirt Sophomore (3 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: 2

What I Know About Him:

He's an interesting player. I can't really think of a comp. He's a... defensive end in a defensive tackle's body. We've had a few defensive tackles in a defensive end's body before, but I can't remember many the other way around. A pass rush specialist who probably isn't tall enough or quick enough to play on the outside. But might have the best pass rush "moves" on the team. Stretch out the edge so that the ballcarrier can't turn the corner? He's probably not your guy, so he has to move inside. But swim past the offensive linemen and get to the quarterback? He's one of the top guys for that, so maybe he should really be on the outside.

Pate flipped from Appalachian State to Illinois in 2017. App State was his best offer during the summer and he committed. Then he got Rutgers and Illinois offers after the season, decommitted from App State, and picked Illinois.

What I Expect From Him:

His first hurdle was getting back in the good graces of the coaching staff (remember, Pate was one of the players suspended for the first three games last season along with Dorsey/Hobbs/Williams/Green). So last season was an "earn trust" season as a redshirt freshman.

Now that he's a sophomore, it's time to decide once and for all whether he's a DE or DT. He's only going to get bigger, which almost certainly says "DT", but again, those pass rush moves coming off the edge....

52. Michael Marchese

Safety - #42
Stevenson High School / Vernon Hills, Illinois
Junior walkon (2 years to play 2)
Tom Cruises: unrated - walkon

What I Know About Him:

I hate that he's only known for That Play. You know That Play. We lead South Florida late, we've forced them into third and 17, a stop here and we can probably run out the clock for the win, and Marchese bites on a hesitation move from the wide receiver and gets beat over the top for a touchdown. Illini lose.

One game before that he had played quite well, starting the Western Illinois game and grabbing an interception (which he almost turned into a pick six). But his sophomore year will, unfortunately, be remembered for That Play. Could have happened to anyone in any game, but it happened to him in that moment of that game.

What I Expect From Him:

I'll say it this way: if he had elite athleticism, I would mark him down with a Sharpie as a starting safety the next two years. He makes the right reads (well, mostly) and seems to understand exactly what the coaches want. That's why they moved him ahead of several scholarship guys and into the lineup.

Unfortunately, he doesn't have that elite athleticism. Which is why he had to walk on instead of getting a scholarship. Camp testing doesn't lie. But perhaps he can be one of those guys who overcomes that with heady play. Will be an interesting one to watch at camp.

51. Dawson DeGroot

Linebacker - #24
Fort Meyers High School / Fort Meyers, Florida
Junior (3 years to play 2)
Tom Cruises: 2.5

What I Know About Him:

Linebacker? Yes, linebacker. Lovie is the defensive coordinator now, and he apparently wanted faster, smaller linebackers at his disposal, so this spring he moved Delano Ware and Dawson DeGroot from safety to linebacker. I might get confused on Twitter this fall and refer to them as nickel backs, but this is how you remind me: "Robert, they're both linebackers now."

DeGroot is probably quite similar to Michael Marchese - doesn't have the top-end speed necessary to be a Big Ten safety. But he can deliver hits, and he's not afraid to mix it up, so Lovie's going to try to use that at outside linebacker.

What I Expect From Him:

I don't know how this whole "safeties as linebackers" thing is going to work, so it's really hard to say what role DeGroot will have. Is it an every down thing? Only situation downs? This spring it was clearly Ware first-string, DeGroot second-string, but is that just for certain packages and on other downs a faster prototypical linebacker (like Milo Eifler) holds down that OLB spot?

So it's hard to say. DeGroot will definitely be a special teams coverage guy because he likes to hit. But beyond that, ask me after Eastern Michigan.

Comments

Douglascountyillinifan on July 23, 2019 @ 11:53 AM

this is how you remind me: "Robert, they're both linebackers now." Nicely played, sir. The question is, "Are we having fun yet?"

Bear8287 on July 23, 2019 @ 12:57 PM

enter image description here

Sweetchuck13 on July 25, 2019 @ 08:11 AM

Thanks for adding jersey numbers!!

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