The 90 Illini - 40 ~ 36

Aug 14, 2019

Man I am really pushing it this year. I still have six more of these to write (I always do the top-10 as one post the day before the first game), I have five camp posts on my list, and there's this little thing called The Preview where I'll write about 2,000 words each of the next 12 days. I spent 3.5 hours on Saturday just researching The Big Stat for the opener of the preview. And I didn't even complete my research. It will BLOW YOUR MIND. #tease #marketing

40. Ra'Von Bonner

Running Back
Sycamore High School / Cincinnati, Ohio
Junior (3 years to play 2)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

Three years to play two you say? Hmmm... three years to play two. So he hasn't participated at practice yet this summer with an undisclosed injury, and he never redshirted, and he could still take a redshirt year, and we have three tailbacks who can absolutely handle the load this season (Corbin, Epstein, and Brown), plus a guy who already redshirted (Jakari Norwood) who could get some emergency carries, and redshirting him this season would give us two years where he'll get a lot of carries instead of one.......

It makes sense, right? OK, things I know about him. He's probably not going to redshirt and he's probably going to be "need two tough yards" tailback this season. And with Chase Brown primed to be the Tough Yards Guy after he sits out this season, maybe, like all players, it's best to keep Bonner on the field and not do this silly "could he redshirt as a junior?" thing.

What I Expect From Him:

So I expect him to play. And I expect him to be the Tough Yards guy. Where it gets interesting is next season.

Next year, Reggie Corbin and Dre Brown will have graduated. So the choices at tailback will be two seniors (Mike Epstein and Ra'Von Bonner), three redshirt sophomores (Jakari Norwood, Kenyon Sims, and Chase Brown), a redshirt freshman (Nick Fedanzo), and a true freshman (Reggie Love). Man, I feel really good about tailback for the foreseeable future. I still believe in the 3.5 Cruises I gave to Chase Brown.

Sorry, this is about Bonner. I think what I expect is simple. He's our inverse "change of pace" back. Every now and then, we pull all of these quick guys off the field and let Bonner go in there and hammer away at the defense.

39. Calvin Avery

Defensive Tackle
Bishop Dunne High School / Dallas, Texas
Sophomore (4 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: 4.5

What I Know About Him:

Avery was a massive get for Lovie and Andrew Hayes-Stoker. One of two four-star recruits in the 2018 class. I'm sure they sold him on early playing time and they provided just that as he played in all 12 games last year.

The big issue... well, you know the big issue: the coaches want him to play at (I'm guessing) around 300 lbs and he's currently listed at 330 (and might be closer to 340?). I'm certainly not one to scold someone over a late night burger run, but the facts are the facts. The coaches want him in better shape.

What I Expect From Him:

With three seniors at defensive tackle, he's somewhat in the background this year (much like he was last year). I want him in there for every short yardage situation (like, every single one) because he's so hard to move. But beyond that, I'm thinking guys like Milan, Oliver, Oladipo, and Woods get the majority of the snaps at DT.

Which, honestly, is how it should be. Let the seniors take the bulk of the snaps. Next year, after three seniors graduate, Avery moves up in the rotation as a junior and (hopefully) becomes the future NFL defensive tackle he's capable of being.

38. Dominic Stampley

Wide Receiver
Coffeyville Community College / originally from Champaign, Illinois
Junior (2 years to play 2)
Tom Cruises: 1

What I Know About Him:

One Tom Cruise? That's harsh. I went back and read the post and it looks like all I had to go on was some high school film from 2015 and the fact that he had no other offers besides Illinois, joining the team four months after no one signed him on Signing Day. So yeah, presented with that information, I'd probably go with one Tom Cruise again.

But he certainly didn't prove to be a one Tom Cruise recruit. He had 19 catches for 311 yards (16.4 per reception) on the season, which is just a wee bit better than his Tom Cruise rating would indicate.

What I Expect From Him:

This will be interesting. Last year, after Mikey Dudek went down with an injury, Stamp became the best slot receiver option on the roster. This season, he'll have competition there, namely from USC transfer Trevon Sidney and true freshman Kyron Cumby.

So I could see this going either way. I could see his catches increasing significantly (second year in the offense) or I could see his catches reduced because of the presence of Sidney and Cumby. And interesting battle to watch.

37. Caleb Griffin

Danville High School / Danville, Illinois
Redshirt Freshman (4 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: looks like I never rated him because I thought he was a walkon

What I Know About Him:

It's weird that I didn't rate him. I guess I was assuming he was a walkon (like most kicking recruits) but instead he was a "blueshirt", joining the team in the fall and counting towards the next recruiting class (much like Stampley).

He's probably the most athletic kicker we've had in a long time, putting together dunk videos and whatnot. In fact, he committed to Illinois by wearing orange and blue socks for a high school basketball game, saying that whatever socks he emerged from the locker room wearing would be the school he was choosing.

What I Expect From Him:

It's a lock that he will be the kicker in 2021 and 2022. The question is whether he'll be the kicker in 2019 and 2020. It's a battle right now between Griffin and junior James McCourt (another scholarship kicker) to see who wins the job.

Griffin has the bigger leg, so I think he handles kickoffs regardless, but placekicking will be a battle that (in my opinion) goes into the season. If the starter is struggling, the backup will be ready to come in and replace him. Decent problem to have.

36. Marquez Beason

Defensive Back
Duncanville High School / Dallas, Texas
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 5

What I Know About Him:

I don't even want to talk about it.

Yes, I fully expect Lovie to approach the media horde at practice tomorrow with "unfortunately Marquez Beason is out for the season with a knee injury". If you're tracking such things, it should happen right around 12:30-12:45 tomorrow. And then we can all throw our laptops against the wall.

It's just so unfair. We lose Dude K in the first game last year (after three consecutive season-ending injuries), we've lost Mike Epstein each of the last two seasons to an injury, Bobby Roundtree had a severe spinal cord injury in May, and now Marquez Beason is carted off the practice field with a knee injury. Life is just so unfair.

What I Expect From Him:

I said I don't want to talk about it.

If healthy, Beason is the third cornerback, probably coming in to spell both starters and electrify the crowd with some incredible athleticism. But he's probably not healthy, which means he's probably going to redshirt and rehab this injury. We wait all this time from verbal to first camp and then he goes down with a knee injury in his ninth practice.

So incredibly unfair.


The Olaf Rules on August 15 @ 02:13 AM CDT

I happened to catch Beason for about a minute today doing a live Instagram feed from what looked like a medical facility. He said very little, but in reply to a viewer asking him if he’s out for the year, he said he is NOT out for the year. TIFWIW. No idea whether that statement is made following a doctor’s advice, or just youthful optimism.

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