Signing Day Breakdown - 2021 Class

Dec 18, 2020

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First off, you know what intro is coming. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BLOG. First real post: Signing Day for the 2009 Terry Hawthorne/Justin Green class. This post: Signing Day for the guys-who-just-signed-without-a-coach 2021 class. 12 years old. One more year and I'll be a teenager.

I say "first real post" because the first actual post went up in November 2008 once the software was set up and my friend Brian showed me how to use it. I wrote like a 300-word post on how Jereme Richmond, DJ Richardson, and Brandon Paul were going to eventually lead the Illini to the national championship. Look mommy, I write words on the internet now!

Let's start this post with a different tone: this is the weirdest class imaginable. 14 players signed to play for CTBNL (Coach To Be Named Later). It's so very weird. It's not Illinois only - a bunch of 4-stars signed with Auburn to play for {place name of coach here}. So odd.

It usually works like this: the Monday after Thanksgiving, a bunch of coaches are fired. With the new early signing day, the AD's scramble to name a guy that week or the next week. Then that coach has 7-14 days to contact all the recruits and try to keep them on board. This year, with the season running until Christmas, meaning Lovie Smith wasn't fired until December 13th, there were three days between firing and Signing Day. That's not enough time to hire a new coach, so the players had to sign with CTBNL.

And with Covid, that was a lot easier. Typically this is flipping season, with kids having finished their high school season and taking visits the first two weekends in December. No visits this year, some high school seasons are still going on (some never started), and so it was more or less "everyone sticks with the recruits they have". Illinois had 16 committed, lost Trevor Moffitt to Appalachian State, lost Chevy Brenson to {undecided}, and the other 14 signed with CTBNL. The best example of this: Joriell Washington publicly decommitted, likely found that there were about 39 open scholarships nationwide, and very quickly publicly recommitted. If you're not a blue-chip sure-thing Power 5 player, spots are likely very hard to come by.

Especially with the other rule here - the one where all seniors can come back. Nobody knows which ones will and which ones won't, but we should probably talk about that as well before we get to the class breakdown.

Say the new coach is hired on Monday. His task from his first day until spring Signing Day will be to play with numbers. Because this is as unique a situation as has ever existed for a new coach. I will now write a mini-post inside this post - a concept you will see in every article this winter and spring.

The Advantage For Coaches Taking Over Programs In 2021
by Bobby Rosenthal

When CTBNL takes over at some point in the next few weeks, he'll have an advantage that the 2020 class of new college coaches (or 2019, or 2018...) will not have had. He'll have access to more than 85 players.

The rule change was simple: the NCAA said that the 2020 season, whatever it looked like, would shortchange the student athletes. It wouldn't be a real season, so it shouldn't count against eligibility. If you came into this season as a 3-to-play-2 (three seasons to play two more years on the field), you'll go into next season as a 3-to-play-2. It's like this season never happened.

Because that creates a logjam, the NCAA also announced that the roster limit of 85 scholarship players would be lifted in 2021. If you're bringing everyone back and you're adding a recruiting class, you're clearly going to go higher than 85. So for next year, no limit.

Now, obviously, not every player comes back. Especially with a coaching change. Let's start with how it applies to a "normal" roster and then discuss how it applies to Illinois and CTBNL.

Actually, I already wrote out an example of how it plays out for a normal roster. I'll cut and paste from that post in August. And that means that this post is basically Inception. This is a cut-and-paste inside the post-within-a-post. I'm gonna play the kick song soon.

Georgia Tech has 17 seniors and currently their 2021 class has 19 recruits. There's a lot of unknowns here (how many seniors actually return, what the final recruiting class count climbs to, etc), so these will be rough numbers (I mean, they're planning on attrition anyway if they have 19 verbals and 17 seniors), so let's assume it would have been a class of 22 which would brings them to (spitballing here) 83 scholarship players. And let's assume 14 of those 17 seniors return for a second final season in 2021.

That means they're at 97 scholarship players for 2021 now. And they'll have 14 seniors. (This is where my brain says "wait, they'll really have like 30 seniors because their juniors will be seniors in 2021 as well, right?" but no, those juniors will technically be juniors again.) So they'd watch those 14 seniors graduate, drop down to 83, and could bring in a 2022 recruiting class of {checks math again} 2 recruits.

See where this is going?

That's the craziness of this ruling. Again, as mentioned above, maybe they pass legislation between now and 2022 that allows for 95 scholarships in 2022 or whatever and then 90 in 2023 and then back to 85 in 2024 (or whatever). But if not, this is going to get very interesting.

The numbers won't exactly look like that, of course. Some programs with recruits in the pipeline will just tell their seniors to move along and transfer somewhere. Other programs will try to hang on to every senior. Some will use it as a way to purge five players from each class that aren't what they thought they were recruiting. Some programs will load up on 12 grad transfers (or, if the rule passes in January, just "transfers") in a year without scholarship cap, other programs will bank scholarships because they feel good about the 2022 class and don't want to be left with 9 spots open next year. There's this wide range of how teams will deal with A) no limit on scholarship in 2021 plus B) back to 85 scholarships in 2022 (as of now).

For CTBNL at Illinois, I'm guessing he will try to keep as many players here as possible AND try to add more high school recruits before the second signing day in early February AND add a bunch of transfers.

That will be offset by other transfers, of course. I'd put the over/under on Lovie guys leaving the program at... 10? So there's a ton of math that CTBNL is going to do. And all of it benefits him.

Why? Two things: 1) He doesn't have to worry about a cap of 85 next year, and 2) He's being handed a roster with 100% redshirts plus maybe 40% double-redshirts. Keith Randolph will be a third-year player... and a freshman with four years of eligibility. Owen Carney, should he chose to come back after his second-team All Big Ten season, gets the redshirt year he missed in 2017.

It might be true that CTBNL chooses to stick right around 85 players so that he can bring in a massive class in 2022. It might be true that he tries to keep every senior, adds more high schoolers on late signing day, adds 10 transfers in the spring, and goes into 2021 with 100 scholarship players. The benefit is having all the room in the world between those two scenarios to choose which path he wants to walk.

As of today, I count 76 scholarship players still with the program plus 14 signees. So right now the number is 90. It will go up and down from there between now and the season. Maybe 7 players choose to leave next week and it goes down to 83. With backdates I believe there's 14 more "spots" available for incoming 2021 players so let's say 8 more high school players are added on February 3rd and it's up to 91. Then, after the "everyone can transfer without sitting out" rule passes in January, 5 transfers come in and 2 go out and we're at 94. Then six additional seniors choose not to come back after spring ball and we're at 88. Then three jucos are added after their spring season (two as blueshirts) and it's 91 scholarship players for 2021. Or whatever.

The point is that there's great flexibility here. Kind of an idea situation for a first-year coach, to be honest. None of that "39 scholarship players" that Kansas went through when David Beaty took over. CTBNL can basically chose to put the number anywhere between 80 and 100 given how he wants to approach the 2022 class. You're capped at 25 per class but if some are backdated this spring (I'm guessing they will be), he will likely bring in 14 new players before next season (plus recruit seniors to stay).

All of that AND Isaiah Williams is a third-year freshman with four years of eligibility. If he stays.

That article-inside-an-article was the good news. This is the bad news. I just totaled up my Tom Cruises for this recruiting class and... the average is only a tiny bit above the Bill Cubit class in 2016. This is not me going back and rating a class lower because the season was bad and a coach was fired and it's now a lame-duck class. Those are the ratings I put together for the 14 players, all of them coming before this season began.

So let's maybe hurry through this part since it's all bad news? I'll just give you the entire class in order of Tom Cruises.

Brody Wisecarver
Offensive Lineman - St. Louis, MO

Clearly the best player in the class, I think, by any metric - offers, film, measurables. The issue: there are 10 current freshmen on the team right now who I gave 3.5 or more Tom Cruises to. 3.5 Cruises should never be the best player in a class. (Still, though, I think he'll be a 3.5 year starter and the anchor around which CTBNL builds his future offensive line.)

Patrick Bryant
Wide Receiver - Jacksonville, FL

To me, clearly the #2 player in the class. I rated him 3.25 when he committed but then some of his plays this fall made me think about rating him higher. I think he can be really good. Very fluid and athletic. Check out the first highlight here:

Josh Kreutz
Offensive Lineman - Chicago, IL

I'll be honest - I was a little surprised he still signed. He was kind of always going to go to Illinois because his dad played for Lovie with the Bears. So when Lovie was fired, I guess I assumed he'd look around for something else. But his LOI is in, so he'll be in orange and blue. Probably a center like his dad. If Doug Kramer doesn't return, it's possible that Blake Jeresaty is the center next year and the Kreutz takes over in 2022 as a redshirt freshman.

Daniel "Snook" Edwards
Cornerback - Winter Park, FL

I'm guessing cornerback based on his measurables, but maybe CTBNL has a different kind of defense and wants Snook at WR. Or safety. That's the big thing about coaching changes. I'll go to spring practice in March (yes, spring practices will likely be closed - let me dream until I can't) and I'll see Sydney Brown at linebacker and I'll be all "innnnteresting". So for now, Snook is a corner, but we need to meet CTBNL before we decide where he really goes.

DD Snyder
Safety - Tampa, FL

Snyder is probably the last of the "really like this kid - really think he can contribute" guys in this class. That means I see five contributors in this class. Oof. But I really do like Snyder on film and think he can be an answer at safety sooner rather than later. I do think CTBNL will look at the roster he inherits and immediately go pull out film of his recruiting class to see if he has any safeties at all.

Sedarious McConnell
Defensive Lineman - Atlanta, GA

This was a decent pull (Pitt, Minnesota, Louisville, West Virginia) out of Atlanta. Really raw, though. I believe I comped him to Tymir Oliver after watching his film - a tweener who probably ends up at DT. Tweeners can be helpful, but they're tweeners because they're not quite a defensive end and not quite a defensive tackle. Hopefully he settles well into one of those roles in CTBNL's defense.

Joriell Washington
Safety - Fort Meyers, FL

Need safeties. He's a safety. Good bloodlines (his dad played at NC State) but early interest and offers from schools like Oregon never materialized and he ended up choosing between Boston College, Illinois, Iowa State, and South Florida. Chose Illinois. (And then, this week, decommitted after Lovie was fired. And likely didn't hear from anyone. And quickly recommitted.)

Tyler Strain
Cornerback - Milton, FL

If there's a sleeper in this class it's probably Strain or the next guy (Dylan Rosiek). I'm not going to give out my Asamoah Award (lower-ranked player who could surprise) until after CTBNL adds more players in January, but Strain is on the radar for that award. I have a soft spot for short, quick cornerbacks in the V'Angelo Bentley mold.

Dylan Rosiek
Linebacker - Tarpon Springs, FL

He wasn't "my guy" - Trevor Moffitt was. But Moffitt decommitted and flipped to App State, so now Rosiek has to be the linebacker sleeper. And because linebacker is really thin right now, Rosiek might be needed as soon as next year. If he's not ready (I don't think he will be, strength-wise), you might see a transfer or two at LB once CTBNL gets settled in.

Samari Collier
Quarterback - DeSoto, TX

I know this is low compared to where others have him, but I didn't really see it on film. And yes, I've seen his senior film. Hope I'm wrong. Moving on.

Zach Barlev
Offensive Lineman - Plainfield, IL

Hope I'm wrong.

Kalen Villanueva
Linebacker - Falls Church, VA

Hope I'm wrong.

Josh Gesky
Offensive Lineman - Menteno, IL

Hope I'm wrong.

Prince Green
ATH - Griffin, GA

Hope I'm wrong.

Add it all up and the average Tom Cruises: 2.39. That's, uh, very close to the lowest average I've given out. Here's the last six classes:

2016 (Cubit): 2.304
2017: (Lovie): 2.730
2018: 2.563
2019: 2.820
2020: 2.640
2021: 2.393

Average Ohio State class would be 4.2 Cruises. Wisconsin classes probably average around 3.3 Cruises. A decent Northwestern class: 2.8 Cruises. Average Tim Beckman class would have been around 2.5. What Purdue was pulling in under Darrell Hazell: 2.2. A MAC class: 1.9.

This class: 2.4-ish. Not great, Bob.

Hope I'm wrong.


ktcesw on December 18, 2020 @ 06:12 PM

Thanks for the evaluation! It is definitely hard for me to keep up on recruits so, a big help.

Norcal Illini on December 18, 2020 @ 07:44 PM

Only 3 players from Illinois and 2 are in the "Hope I'm wrong" category. That needs to change with CTBNL.

PowerGranger on December 18, 2020 @ 10:07 PM

Man up Robert, it's Manteno.

Efremwinters84 on December 19, 2020 @ 12:17 PM

I'm expecting a rather significant roster overhaul, given all the different strings Bielema has to pull --- particularly in terms of convincing players to return or leave AND in terms of transfers-in and transfers-out.

Douglascountyillinifan on December 20, 2020 @ 06:37 AM

I know that creaning is the nature of the beast, but I really hope that we can keep it to a minimum AND get better, because these kids have been through some unprecedented stuff.

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