The 90 Illini #74: Cooper Davis
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I should probably add something to this like "potential riser alert". Like when there's a top-40 radio list and one of the songs is noted as a potential fast riser. Cooper Davis is a true freshman defensive end, and true freshman defensive ends usually need at least 18 months before they're ready for P5 football, but the uncertainties on the strongside might mean that he gets on the field sooner rather than later.
The reason for those uncertainties: Wole Betiku declaring for the draft and Ayo Shogbonyo graduating after four years and not returning for a fifth season. That takes two names off the "could play SDE" list for this season. Which means that everyone else moves up two slots.
The likely rotation at defensive end this season seems simple. The two seniors start, the two redshirt freshmen are the backups. Isaiah Gay starts at WDE with Seth Coleman backing him up, and Owen Carney starts at SDE with Keith Randolph backing him up. The second-year players push the fourth-year players for playing time all season, maybe with some other guys (Marc Mondesir?) pushing for snaps in pass-rush situations.
But if anyone falters, the names further down the list aren't really known. Could Cooper Davis enter that rotation at SDE? Maybe in the same way that Keith Randolph did last season?
74. Cooper Davis
Uniform number: N/A
Year in school: True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Height: 6'-6" -- Weight: 245 lbs.
Hometown: Melbourne, Florida
High School: Viera HS
Five best offers: Nebraska, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisville, Minnesota
Tom Cruise rating: 3 Cruises
Davis is originally from the Kansas City area. He lived there until he was 15 and then his family moved to Florida. So during the first phase of his recruiting, he took one visit - Missouri - and committed to the Tigers.
But then Barry Odom was fired and the coaches who had recruited him were gone. So he opened back up, visited Illinois, and flipped his commitment. In my household, this makes him the greatest American hero. I never thought I could feel so free.
I guess I already covered this above. Maybe I should just list out the defensive ends as I see them:
Pass rush-y outside linebackers playing WDE: Marc Mondesir (rs-JR)
Weakside defensive ends: Isaiah Gay (SR), Ezekiel Holmes (rs-SO), Seth Coleman (rs-FR)
Strongside defensive ends: Owen Carney (SR), Keith Randolph (rs-FR), Cooper Davis (FR)
Defensive tackles who could play SDE in a pinch: Jamal Woods (rs-JR), Johnny Newton (FR)
Five defensive ends will likely play. Right now I'd guess Gay-Coleman-Carney-Randolph-Mondesir. But maybe that fifth guy is Cooper Davis?
The question then: does he play in four games or less and then redshirt (like Coleman and Randolph did last season)? I'd say that's much more likely than "burns his redshirt and plays in all 13 games". But, you never know. The likely rotation at SDE in 2021 is Randolph and Davis, so this season is probably "whatever it takes to get him ready for that".