Not Great, Bob
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I've started the Dylan Rosiek LLUOI post three times now. Yesterday morning - couldn't write it. Last evening - couldn't write it. Tried again this afternoon - stared at a blank screen. I'm stuck in a mental traffic jam again - I can't write those posts until I write this one.
Here's how it works in my brain. With 10 players in the class now, I think this is a good spot to look at where we stand on my "we need this many ready-to-go players and this many projects" list. But I don't want to write that post until I write these other three LLUOI posts because I'd have to tip my hand as to the rankings I'm going to give those three players and I shouldn't do that until I write the individual posts and give each player the breakdown they deserve.
Each time I try to do that (write those posts)... I start wandering off track and ranting. So I guess my brain just won't let me write those posts until I get this out.
My issue, I think: Many of you have dealt with recruiting anxiety all spring. Rutgers had 14 verbals, Illinois had 2, and most of the Illini people I interact with were in a panic and I was calm. And when they asked why I was calm, I basically said two things (chronicled in three very lost posts here last month). One, I expect Lovie classes to be slow to develop - they have taken their time evaluating and evaluating the first four years and I don't know why we'd expect something different now. And two, I'm more of a "let's learn the names and then see what we've got" guy, not a "we only have two recruits we're doomed" guy. It's not like the class is going to be empty, so I just wait to see what players we're bringing in.
We're now at 10 verbals. I ran all the numbers a few weeks ago and, assuming normal attrition and backdating some early enrollees (we can backdate up to six players because of the small 2020 class), this class might be as many as 20-22 freshmen plus 8-10 transfers. That's just a guess based on how many transfers the staff has pursued the last two years, and we don't really know the attrition numbers so we don't know if we'll really have 30 rides available, but it will be somewhere in that ballpark. The point: we're probably halfway there with this freshman class. We'll add 10 or 11 more and then look at transfers.
So if I'm a "wait for the names to arrive" guy, and we now have half the names, how we doin'?
Not great, Bob.
This class is so important. After 63-0, everything appeared dead, but I still clung to a glimmer of hope (I always cling to a glimmer of hope). I wrote about it here. Recruiting is going to suck after you go 4-8 in your third season, but if you can somehow get to a bowl game in 2019 and then flip the switch, you can still pull out of this dive. 2020 is going to be a small class anyway so maybe you can survive a recruiting dip and then really hit the gas once you get that sixth win in 2019.
We got the sixth win in 2019. And we did hit the gas a bit: the final four players added to that class in December (after we had qualified for a bowl game) were all the type of recruit I was talking about: Deuce Spann, Johnny Newton, Cooper Davis, and Tre'Von Riggins. Because of those four plus the two Trinity guys (and because the 2020 class only had 13 players), we were still OK. But that meant that the 2021 class had to be The One. It's time for a top-35 class. Smith Center is completed, bowl game is achieved, take this momentum and crank up our recruiting game.
After 10 players, it's just not there. It has stayed the same. So far, it's the 2018 class. That's still better than the roster Lovie inherited, so it's not "we're looking at 2-10 or 1-11 again soon", but I had a very specific goal for this class: top-35. And unless it changes quickly, we're just not going to get there. And that has me so down that I just can't make myself write the LLUOI posts.
Let's get specific with the numbers. I've laid out the path to that Top-35 class several times. Here's a cut and paste from my post a few weeks ago:
So I can finally amend my numbers from above. I guessed 17 recruits + 8 transfers for the 25. Well, let's assume that 31 is our number, and here's how we might get there:
- 6 early enrollees fill out the open slots from the 2020 class
- 16 other high school recruits in the 2021 class
- 9 transfers added to the 2021 class
My new numbers assume 22 high school recruits plus 9 transfers, so yes, we just crossed the quarter pole with high school recruits. Going back to my December post, I said that they needed to fall in these categories:
Certainly look like players who could win the Big Ten West: 11 recruits
Players somewhere between the two lists: 6
Here's where I'd put the six recruits so far. I think it's 2-2-2:
Certainly look like players who could win the Big Ten West: Brody Wisecarver, Daniel Edwards
Players somewhere between the two lists: Sedarius McConnell, Trevor Moffitt
Projects: Prince Green, Samari Collier
Let's update that list. We've added four more players to the class, so where do we stand after 10 recruits?
Certainly look like players who could win the Big Ten West: Brody Wisecarver, Daniel Edwards, Patrick Bryant
Players somewhere between the two lists: Sedarius McConnell, Trevor Moffitt, Joriell Washington
Projects: Prince Green, Samari Collier, Dylan Rosiek, Theodore Lockley
So if we're trying to track for that all-important top-35 class, what do we need?
Certainly look like players who could win the Big Ten West: Have three, need eight more
Players somewhere between the two lists: Have three, need three more
Projects: Have four, can only add one more
Again, it's not some hard and fast rule. It's not "the success of the program depends on clearing this bar!". There are coaches that bring in 45 four-stars and fail; there are coaches who bring in low-to-mid three-stars and win. It helps, but it's not some "unless you recruit like this you'll never win" thing. There's a bunch of factors: player development, finding players that fit your systems, having a high-end QB to elevate the entire offense, etc. As I wrote a few weeks ago, recruiting is way over-emphasized and also extremely important. The key to all of it: build a program.
My goal here is simply this: in my evaluation of the program and where it goes after the 2020 season, a deep and talented 2021 class will be very, very important. It's going to be a third of the roster. This is a very, very important class, and we have a bowl game to sell, and we have the Smith Center, sooo... the bar is top-35 class. It's time.
And it doesn't look like it's going to happen. That's so, so difficult to swallow. I think I'm having trouble putting my feelings into words here. Let me go for a quick walk and think about this.
OK I figured it out. It's like if McCourt had missed the field goal in the Wisconsin game. Imagine how deflating we would have felt had the kick sailed wide right. Wisconsin players celebrate, the entire stadium falls to their knees, and Same Old Illinois would be the story once again.
It wouldn't have "meant" anything. We could have still beaten Purdue, Rutgers, MSU, and maybe Northwestern to make a bowl. We could have pointed to that missed FG a showing we're right there ready to turn the corner or whatever. It wouldn't have meant that it's all over.
But it would have been so deflating. We would have held on and kept the faith and hoped and hoped and hoped some more and then we'd have seen Witherspoon's tackle and Bhebhe's touchdown and Adams' interception and started to think that all of our faith and perseverance was going to be rewarded. And then... deflation.
That's how I feel halfway through this recruiting class. I really did hold onto hope that a bowl game + the facility upgrades would have meant a big step forward in recruiting. We're basically just recruiting the 2018 class again (without an Avery or Brown so far) and that's really deflating. We're still bigger and stronger and faster than we were in 2016 (see the "Roster Turnover" post I wrote last week), and I feel good about this season and good about the roster overall, but we're not making The Leap in recruiting.
Which basically feels like I'm watching the FG is sail wide right.