The 90 Illini #32: Keith Randolph Jr.
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Randolph had to be the best use of the 4-game redshirt rule so far. He wasn't "ready" as a true freshman, but he was close to ready. So he was used in the Akron and Nebraska games in September to get his feet wet.
Then, Wole Betiku got injured. And Randolph was needed. So he played his third and fourth games against Rutgers and Michigan State while Betiku was out. Then, after the bye week that followed Michigan State, Betiku returned for the Iowa game and Randolph sat. He had played his four games, so he sat for Iowa, Northwestern, and the bowl game and kept his redshirt. He has four more years of eligibility (and now, with the Covid rule, five more years).
32. Keith Randolph Jr.
Uniform number: 88
Year in school: Redshirt Freshman (4 years to play 4; with the Covid rule, technically 5 to play 5)
Height: 6'-5" -- Weight: 270 lbs.
Hometown: Belleville, Illinois
High School: Belleville West HS
Five best offers: Florida State, Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue
Tom Cruise rating: 3.5 Cruises
2019 statistics: Played in 4 games and then redshirted.
This was one of those "man, after all this time thinking he's coming here, he's not going to come here, is he?" players. After a big senior season, interest picked up in Randolph. He had an OK offer list before but that fall (during his senior high school season) he picked up offers from Michigan State, Iowa, Indiana, Virginia, and Florida State. He visited Virginia and Michigan State, I was sweating bullets that he was going to take a late visit to FSU, but he ended up picking Illinois.
The reason I was so high on him: the old "multi-sport athlete" thing. I saw him in a basketball game once (he was the center on the EJ Liddell Belleville West team that won two state titles), and he's clearly an athlete who can move. Big fan of basketball players at defensive end.
I'm a big fan of putting basketball players on the football team and football players on the basketball team, really. I like to daydream. Top-3 crossovers (in my head) the last few years:
- Kendrick Nunn, strong safety
- Jihad Ward, power forward
- Andres Feliz, 6'-2", 205 lb. dual-threat quarterback
Randolph becomes very important very quickly, I think. He was the third option at strongside defensive end last year (behind Wole Betiku and Owen Carney), playing in those games when Betiku was out. With Betiku gone, he's now the second option behind the senior Carney. And possibly pushing him for the starting spot?
Carney is set to graduate but might return for a 5th (Covid rule) year. So if he does, Randolph has another year in 2021 to learn in the background while gaining strength.
If he doesn't? Decent chance Randolph leads the team in sacks in 2021, 2022, and 2023 (and, if he takes advantage of the Covid rule, 2024).