You have currently viewed 1 story this month.
IlliniBoard now offers two free stories per month, for more please subscribe.
OK. All vacations are done (well, besides my yearly September "thanks for understanding while I was gone the whole month of August" trip with my wife). I promise to be near wifi for the next month-plus. Two LLOUI posts are coming tomorrow plus some camp previews later this week plus more. My May-June-July slow-down around here has come to an end.
Where should I start as I crank things up? A pre-camp three-deep, of course. Because Fitzee would totally hate it. Starters in bold, newcomers in italics.
QB | Robinson (rs-FR) | Peters (JR) | Williams (FR)
RB | Corbin (SR) -OR- Epstein (JR) | Bonner (JR) | D. Brown (SR)
TE | Barker (SO) | Walker (SR) | Palmer (JR)
LT | Lowe (JR) | Cerny (rs-JR) | Pearl (rs-FR)
LG | K. Green (rs-SO) | V. Brown (rs-FR) | Gavin (JR)
C | Kramer (JR) | Stover (SO-walkon) | Engel (FR-walkon)
RG | Petitbon (SR) | Myers (rs-FR) | Plohr (FR)
RT | Palczewski (JR) | Slaughter (rs-FR) | Kirts (FR)
WR1 | Sidney (JR) | Stampley (JR) | Holmes (SO-walkon) | J. Williams (SR)
WR2 | Smalling (JR) | Navarro (SO-walkon) | Smith (JR) | Washington (FR)
WR3 | Davis (SR) | Imatorbhebhe (JR) | Carter (rs-FR) | Reams (SR)
WDE | Gay (JR) | Betiku (JR) | Shogbonyo (JR)
DT | Milan (SR) | Avery (SO) | Jackson (SR)
DT | Oliver (SR) | Woods (rs-SO) | Oladipo (rs-SO)
SDE | Carney (JR) | Pate (rs-SO) | Okpala (FR)
WLB | Hansen (JR) | Tolson (SO) | Barnes (FR)
MLB | Harding (SR) | Cooper (FR) | McEachern (SO-walkon)
SLB | Ware (SO) | Eifler (JR) | DeGroot (JR)
CB | Hobbs (JR) | Walker (JR) | Thompson (FR)
SS | S. Brown (SO) | Joseph (SO) | Marchese (JR-walkon)
FS | Adams (JR) | S. Green (SR) | Bobak (JR-walkon)
CB | Martin (SO) | Beason (FR) | Wyatt (SO)
Kicker | McCourt (JR) -OR- Griffin (rs-FR)
Punter | Hayes (JR) | McCourt (JR)
Longsnapper | Tabel (JR) | Hall (FR) | Rossback (FR)
Holder | Hayes (JR) | C. Miller (JR)
Punt Return | Beason (FR) | Hobbs (JR) | Adams (JR)
KO Return | D. Brown/Cumby | Stampley/Sandy
Let's go through the One Big Takeaway and then a bunch of little things. The One Big Takeaway: so few of the freshmen are needed.
OK, "needed" might be the wrong word. Some of them might be "needed". I'm more talking about my experience when I put these charts together. Each year I slot-in the freshmen - two years ago I slotted-in nearly every freshman - and this year there's nowhere to put them. I can't find room for Seth Coleman at weakside defensive end because I think Gay, Betiku, and Shogbonyo are all ahead of him (and that's even after moving Carney over to SDE to take Roundtree's place). Keith Randolph? I think he'll be a defensive tackle, but I don't think there's any way he's in front of Oliver/Milan/Avery/Woods/Jackson/Oladipo.
And yes, those are all names from a defense that finished 115th from the S&P+. If this were an NFL team, I'd be telling you that every spot is open and every newcomer might start. But this is college football, and that means "get older" is the key to everything, and each player has gotten a year older (while no one graduated), so I don't think there's room for Randolph and Coleman this season. Whereas two years ago, every position was wide open and both would have played from the first quarter of the first game on.
That's the (blind) hope for this team: "depth chart has no openings" results in wins. The point behind playing so many freshmen the last three years is the fill out a chart with "JR" and "SR" like you see above. Next year will be even crazier with up to 30 players on the three-deep with "SR" next to their name.
I'm getting off track. To the quick-hitters:
- OK, yes, putting Matt Robinson as the starting QB is a little bit of clickbait. But remember: first series of the spring game went to Matt Robinson, not MJ Rivers. Player who knows the offense the best as of 7/29/19: Matt Robinson. Only player who has actual in-game experience in this offense? Matt Robinson. I know the talking point going into camp is "transfer or true freshman?", but this is my way of saying don't forget about Robinson (or Coran Taylor, for that matter). Peters and Williams still have to learn the offense, and that will take 20+ practices.
- I still don't even want to talk about it but removing Roundtree from the list is so awful. Ugh.
- I put 12 receivers on the list (a four-deep at each spot) because there are honestly 15 guys with a shot at the top six spots. I can guarantee that's the position that will change the most by the time my post-camp three-deep comes out.
- Sticking with -OR- for both running back (I think it's a two-headed monster with Corbin and Epstein) and kicker (I think it's a neck-and-neck race between McCourt and Griffin).
- Safety might be the biggest question mark going into camp (you know, besides "who is the starting QB?"). I think the top four are set (Adams, Brown, Green, and Joseph), but beyond that, I have two walkons up next (Marchese and Bobak). Will any of the freshmen be at safety? Is James Knight at safety now or is he a linebacker? Lots of questions back there.
- When you have a starting offensive line that includes three sophomores and a freshman (like we did last year), don't expect many changes in the future. This year, the battle is for Allegretti's spot (current favorite: Alabama transfer Richie Petitbon). Next year, the battle is for... the same spot. And then in 2021, a massive battle for three open spots.
- I'm sticking with Marquez Beason as my punt returner. Because I want the ball in his hands (both on punt returns and interceptions). And Dre Brown better return every kickoff.
I think that's about it. Lots of adjusting to be done, starting Friday. Can't wait.