The 90 Illini #89: Phifer Griffin
I spell his name wrong every time I type it. I know there's an H and an F, but I always type Pfipher for some reason. Yes, I realize how dumb it looks because every time I type it that way I say to myself "that looks so dumb, brain, why would you type that?". And then I type it like that again.
Now that I've shamed myself, I'll never do it again. Phifer. Fye-ferr. Got it.
89. Phifer Griffin
Year in school: True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Height: 6'-6" -- Weight: 290 lbs.
Hometown: Monroe, North Carolina
High School: Union Academy
Five best offers: West Virginia, Air Force, Marshall, East Carolina, Georgia State
Tom Cruise rating: 1.5 Cruises
It's cheating a little bit to list that West Virginia offer. He did have a West Virginia offer, but it came from Dana Holgerson's staff. Once Holgerson left West Virginia for Houston, there was no sign that WVU was still recruiting Griffin. This is not a big deal - just wanted to clarify because that was going to be the first comment.
The main thing to know about Griffin: he comes from a tiny school in North Carolina. This is not to say that kids from tiny schools can't be successful in college. It's just that Griffin comes from a school with 33 players, some of them likely sophomores and freshmen. #90 on this list, Brian Hightower, transferred to IMG Academy and played on a team with dozens of FBS players. Griffin played small school football at a private school.
Again, for offensive linemen you're just recruiting high school frames and footwork. You bulk them up for three years and then see what you have. Wisconsin has made a living off finding huge dudes at small high schools and turning them into Big Ten offensive linemen. It simply needs to be noted: the first day of practice for Griffin will likely be the most eye-opening experience of his life. From tossing around the 168 lb defensive end in front of him in high school to trying to deal with Keith Randolph. It's a huge leap in competition.
Griffin did enroll early, so he would have gotten his first taste of Big Ten defensive linemen this spring had practice not been canceled. His eye-opening experience will have to happen in August. He's a big kid - he's #72 in the middle there, the one whose number is higher than everyone else's because his torso is so large - so it's not like this is one of those "recruit a scrawny high school tight end and slowly develop him into an offensive lineman" scenarios. The school listed him at 290 lbs on the roster that came out this spring, so he's already almost there.
But he'll likely have a long way to go once he gets out on the practice field. You just don't learn solid technique when you're lined up against tiny dudes at practice and then more tiny dudes on Friday night. It's the old iron-sharpens-iron thing. Texas and Florida are recruited like they are because it's a bunch of kids with 5+ years of high-end coaching and competition. The players are closer to juco transfers than high school recruits. Kids from tiny high schools simply need more development.
For Griffin, that development started this spring (at least on the bulk-up side of things). There are four seniors and a fourth-year junior on the offensive line this fall, so he won't be needed right away. And I'd say there's even a second phase in front of him as the kids who will be sophomores this fall (Verdis Brown, Julian Pearl, Jordyn Slaughter, Brevyn Jones) look primed to be the next line after this one. So for Griffin, the target is probably when those guys graduate after the 2022 season. For the three OL recruits in this 2020 class (Griffin plus Kevin Tyler and Blaise Sparks), it will probably look like this:
2021: redshirt freshmen behind a bunch of junior starters
2022: redshirt sophomores behind a bunch of senior starters
2023: try to grab a starting spot as redshirt juniors
For a project kid (let's face it, any kid from a high school with 33 players is a "project" when they get to college), this is just about the perfect scenario. I always felt bad for Michael Heitz (also from a tiny school) because he was tossed to the wolves as a redshirt freshman in 2011. Kids who need to learn technique could always use 2-3 years of development before getting sent out there. So early enrollment (get a jump-start on the nutrition and strength training side), and then three full years of development (redshirt year, rs-FR year, rs-SO year) is just about perfect.
Which means you can now forget about Griffin for the next three years. He'll be at a 365-day football camp for three years in a row. Check back in August of 2023 and let's see where we stand.