The 90 Illini #33: Daniel Imatorbhebhe
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This is easily the first time I've had three tight ends in the top-33. I'm sure I've had two before - Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse, I'm guessing - but I doubt I've ever had three. The starters basically run 1-24 on a list like this, and then I'm always going to have the starting kicker, punter, and longsnapper in the top-30 of "most important players", so really, the second string starts at #27 (give or take). It's rare that the backup tight end would make one of the next six spots, and extremely rare that two tight ends would be in the next six. But here we are.
33. Daniel Imatorbhebhe
Uniform number: 88
Year in school: Senior (1 year to play 1; with the Covid rule, technically 2 years to play 2)
Height: 6'-3" -- Weight: 240 lbs.
Hometown: Suwanee, Georgia
High School: North Gwinnett HS
Former team: Transfer from USC
Five best offers: Ohio State, Florida, USC, Tennessee, Nebraska
Tom Cruise rating: 3 Cruises
2019 statistics: Last played during the 2017 season at USC. Missed all of 2018 and 2019 with injuries.
In 2016 he was pretty much "is this the next great college tight end?" as a freshman USC. By this time last year, he was done with football, having missed a Dre Brown-like two and a half seasons with injuries. And then he gained a sixth year of eligibility last spring, practiced with USC before Covid shut down spring ball, grad-transferred to Illinois in the summer, and somehow gained a possible seventh year of eligibility with the Covid rule (if he wants it and if the coaches want him back next year). Quite the journey.
So the question, obviously, is "will his body allow football?". The last game he played in was the 2017 Cotton Bowl. It's now 2020 and this is the first time he's been medically cleared. We've seen Dre do it, so now we see if Bhebhe2 can do the same.
I see it like this: a normal receptions chart for Illinois football:
The possible 2020 receptions chart for Illini football:
I mean, it probably won't be that extreme. But the point is that when I look at the possible receptions out there, I feel like Daniel Barker, Luke Ford, and Daniel Imatorbhebhe would all possibly be in the top six (with Bhebhe1, Donny Navarro, and Mike Epstein).
Now, it might not play out like that. They might find that they can't run the ball very well with the 2- and 3-tight end sets (maybe they find that these guys are all pass-catchers, not blockers) and it simply becomes a rotation at one tight end spot with all three splitting time. But I really do think they'll want to get all three on the field as much as possible, often, like we saw last year when we were down to three scholarship wide receivers, with Daniel Barker more or less playing receiver.
So if that's the case, I could see a formation with all three. Epstein in the backfield, Bhebhe1 out wide, Barker also out wide, Ford and Bhebhe2 in some kind of split TE formation. Might be the single best way to attack defenses this season.