The 90 Illini #79: Josh Plohr
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It's always weird to use a photo of a CBC player. That's where my boys went to high school. I'm watching tape of Chevalier Brenson yesterday and it's just so weird to watch high school tape on that field. I almost feel like I'm not qualified to evaluate that film.
But that gives me a chance to ramble on about offensive line recruiting. And I'll use another CBC player as an example.
My youngest son played football at CBC. Not his junior year - he tore his labrum - but freshman, sophomore, and senior year. One of his freshman coaches was some guy named Cory Patterson. Perhaps you've heard of him?
That's neither here nor there. I'm not going to talk about any of the guys who played on the team with my son. I'll talk about a guy there a few years before that.
When my middle son was at CBC (he was track/cross country, not football), he'd go to a lot of home football games and I'd take him. That meant him hanging with his friends and me sometimes sitting in the stands by myself watching some football (never a problem). Those CBC teams had a kid named Andrew Ness.
Andrew Ness was a really good high school offensive lineman. Watch a game and he'd stand out, often clearing out his guy (or pancaking him). He ended up getting two MAC offers - Northern Illinois and Ball State - and picked NIU. He went on to a really, really successful career there. Redshirted and then started for four seasons and those NIU teams won 8, 11, 12, and 12 games. Three-time first-team All MAC, a few honorable mention All American lists, more than 50 career starts - an incredible college career, really.
Very similar to Doug Kramer. Kramer only had MAC offers but earned a grayshirt offer from Bill Cubit (skip football and just be a student during the 2016 season and then join the team in 2017). Kramer turned that into a four year hold on the starting center position for Lovie (who bypassed the grayshirt agreement and put Kramer on scholarship during the summer of 2016).
There's that thing we kick against in recruiting - our friend who cites the one two-star recruit who went on to a great career as a reason that all two-star recruits will be great - but with offensive line recruiting, it's sometimes... true? Meaning, once you get past the sure-thing recruits, there's very little difference between the offensive lineman ranked 34th and the offensive lineman ranked 134th. No position seems to level-out quicker.
Go look at the All Big Ten lists and yes, you'll see the sure-things that Ohio State and Michigan have recruited. But after that, I'm not sure that's a position where it's more of a crapshoot. High three-star WR vs. a low three-star WR? There's probably serious differences in athleticism and burst. High three-star offensive lineman vs. low three-star offensive lineman? Your guess is as good as mine.
Had Andrew Ness picked Illinois in 2011 (he didn't have an offer, at least as far as I know), there would have been backlash. "We're recruiting an offensive lineman only wanted by NIU and Ball State? Are we trying to win the MAC?" But then Ness would have been really good here. Doug Kramer before Doug Kramer.
You just never know. That's why I take my "offers and position rankings matter, y'all" gun and holster it for offensive linemen. It's why I review the film and shrug a lot. Higher-ranked kids (like Brody Wisecarver, a few spots from a four-star) can usually be counted on. After that, it's really hard to say. The starting tackles last year weren't Gabe Megginson and Larry Boyd. They were Alex Palczewski and Vederian Lowe. You just never know.
Which brings us to Plohr. Many dismissed him when he was brought in (after signing day in 2019), but because of Andrew Ness (and others) and their success after CBC, I remain wait-and-see. CBC basically attracted every top football player in the St. Louis area in the 2010's, winning three state titles and going 10 years without losing a conference game. They've cranked out many great linemen over the last decade (in my son's graduating class it was Brian Wallace who went to Arkansas and then the ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS). Could Plohr be the next one? You never know.
79. Josh Plohr
Uniform number: 59
Year in school: Redshirt Freshman (4 years to play 4)
Height: 6'-6" -- Weight: 280 lbs.
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
High School: CBC High School
Five best offers: Western Michigan, Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Texas State
Tom Cruise rating: 1.5 Cruises
2019 statistics: Redshirted, did not play in any games.
Well, see, I've written three-quarters of the post before even getting to this section.
Plohr is from CBC high school in St. Louis. I used to eat dinner at his family's restaurant (although they don't know me and I don't know them). My youngest son was in the same class as Josh's older brother who played baseball at CBC. For a while there, CBC was the St. Thomas Aquinas of St. Louis, a private school attracting all of the top football talent. Those are good fields to harvest because they've already done a little pre-selection.
Cory Patterson used to be an assistant coach at CBC before he got the Trinity job. So I'm guessing that Plohr at Illinois has a little to do with Cory Patterson's connection with Scott Pingel, the CBC head coach and a damn fine math teacher. Plohr committed two weeks after signing day in 2019, so I'm guessing the Illinois coaches suggested he not sign with a MAC school on signing day and instead wait a few weeks to see if they have a spot. They did.
Plohr redshirted last fall. He was out injured when I was at training camp, so I've never seen him play a single snap. There's not much I can say here besides "hope he develops into a Big Ten offensive lineman".
When might he challenge for snaps? That answer is fairly obvious - next year. This fall there will be a senior right tackle, a senior right guard, a senior center, and a senior left tackle (with a fourth-year junior at left guard who could always decide that 2020 is his final season). So the OL is wide open in 2021. Plohr will be entering his third season, so that's probably a great time to make a push for snaps.