The 90 Illini #77: Evan Kirts
I believe that Kirts is the sixth offensive lineman we've covered so far. Let me look it up. Yes, the sixth OL. Well, fifth, but I already said that Brevyn Jones (offensive lineman transfer from Mississippi State who is sitting out this season) is 91st on my list of 90. So if this was The 91 Illini, we'd have now covered six offensive linemen.
Why six linemen before we even reach #75 on the countdown? Mostly because offensive line is a position where, typically, only six guys will play. And that means there are lots of linemen over there on the sideline hanging onto the collar of their jersey.
This year's line will be three tiers, I think. Something like this:
Tier I - Palcho, Jeresaty, Cerny, Kramer, Green, Lowe. Starters plus sixth man.
Tier II - V. Brown, Slaughter, Pearl. They'll play on special teams (field goal and such) and get ready to start in 2021.
Tier III - Kirts, Plohr, Tyler, Sparks, P. Griffin, B. Jones, Engel. Freshmen and redshirt freshmen who will make up the scout team.
Wait, I've covered SEVEN offensive linemen so far. Preston Engel was #88 on this list (walkon, backup center). So perhaps the best way to frame it is this:
There will be ten offensive linemen in the two-deep. The four returning starters, last year's sixth man (Jake Cerny who was a "starter" for Northwestern and Cal with Doug Kramer injured), Blake Jeresaty, the transfer from Wofford, and the three redshirt sophomores (Brown, Pearl, and Slaughter). The competition is then for the 10th guy in that two-deep. One of those guys on Tier III will be a second-stringer. Might it be...
77. Evan Kirts
Uniform number: 57
Year in school: Redshirt Freshman (4 years to play 4)
Height: 6'-5" -- Weight: 260 lbs.
Hometown: Evergreen Park, Illinois
High School: Brother Rice
Five best offers: Virginia, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Ball State
Tom Cruise rating: 1.5 Cruises
2019 statistics: Redshirted, did not play.
I went back and looked at the LLUOI post I wrote and I chronicled the OL targets in his class. This is what I wrote about in-state OL recruiting in the 2019 class:
But if we're going to truly evaluate this, we just need to look at who we were chasing as in-state offensive tackles. We offered Nick Broeker, but he picked Ole Miss. We offered JJ Guedet, but he picked Minnesota. We offered Dave Monnot, but he picked Purdue. And then we offered Evan Kirts, and he picked Illinois.
Broeker was the big miss there. We were his first D-I offer, and then he blew up. He picked Ole Miss and then he was a freshman All American. I really thought he'd pick Illinois (his brother was a walkon here and he was just down the road at SHG), but... I don't know why I'm writing about Nick Broeker when this is the Evan Kirts post.
Kirts arrived pretty small. I remember seeing him at a spring practice in 2019 and thinking he was maybe 240 lbs. The roster lists him at 260 now, so he still has a long way to go. I'm guessing the goal is to get him somewhere around 290 in 2021.
I think I described this already. There's one spot available in the two-deep, and it's a battle between seven guys to win it. And then that guy has a massive jump on the 2021 OL competition with four starting spots opening up.
So the goal for Kirts is simple. Eat like I ate at the Forbes-Hopkins-Garner cafeteria in the fall of 1991, and then go out and grab that open spot in the two-deep. Grabbing that spot would = an early lead for one of the 2021 starting spots.