The 90 Illini #88: Preston Engel
Here's the first of six walkons to make The 90 Illini. That's the reason one scholarship player (Brevyn Jones, the transfer from Mississippi State who will sit out this season) didn't make the top-90. Very specifically, since Preston Engel is the lowest ranked walkon on the list, he's the one who pushed Jones off the list. Which is one of those interesting-only-to-me things.
In a recent depth chart post, a commenter noted that they had read somewhere that Brevyn Jones was going to be tried at center. That was interesting to me because we still don't know who slides over to center after Doug Kramer graduates. Kendrick Green will still have a year of eligibility, so my guess is that Green slides over for one year at center (that's what happened in the Northwestern game when Kramer was injured). But that would only be a one year fix - who is the center in 2022? I'm not sure I see many centers on the roster.
Which brings Preston Engel onto The 90 Illini. Let's get into it.
88. Preston Engel
Uniform number: 58
Year in school: Redshirt Sophomore Walkon (3 years to play 3)
Height: 6'-0" -- Weight: 270 lbs.
Hometown: Normal, Illinois
High School: Normal Community High School
Five best offers: none listed - he was a walkon
Tom Cruise rating: none - walkon
2019 statistics: Played in 2 games (Rutgers and Michigan State) on extra points I believe.
He's an Illini legacy. When I was in school, his father was the center on the football team (and no, I'm long past when something like that would make me feel old - getting out of bed the day after hiking with my wife makes me feel old). His dad (Greg Engel) graduated in 1993 and then played four years with the Chargers in the NFL.
Preston was an all-conference player in high school but had only one small school offer and a few walkon offers. The reason: his size, mostly. He's right around 6'-0" (maybe 5'-11"?) and it's really hard to play offensive line in college if you're not at least 6'-2". Most offensive line spots are won at birth.
But good on him for walking on at his dream school. I mean, can you imagine telling your kids you played in the Michigan State game on November 9th, 2019? That you ran onto the field with your name on the back of your jersey to celebrate clinching a bowl game? What a rush.
He also comes from an Illini family. His mom works for the University, his dad was the captain of the 1993 team, and his brother is a manager for the basketball team. I'm guessing that when we offered the Preferred Walkon spot, he had no choice but to say yes.
Honestly, he's probably on my two-deep at center as camp starts? He's probably not the actual backup - if Doug Kramer were to get injured again, Kendrick Green or Blake Jeresaty would slide over to center and one of the guards would replace them. But if the question is "who is #2 on the center chart" right now, it's probably Engel?
I should just toss together a quick OL two-deep:
LT: Lowe (SR) / Cerny (SR)
LG: Green (JR) / Slaughter (SO)
C: Kramer (SR) / Engel (SO)
RG: Jeresaty (SR) / V. Brown (SO)
RT: Palczewski (SR) / Pearl (SO)
So yeah, "backup center" would be Green or Jeresaty. So perhaps Engel should be listed as third string or something? But at the first practice, when they run the twos out there, I think it will be Cerny-Slaughter-Engel-Brown-Pearl. That's not nothing.
In 2021, the likely scenario is Kendrick Green at center. In 2022, who knows? There might be a senior walkon center who makes some noise.
Good on ya, kid.
(I can say "kid" because his dad was the center while I was in school.)