The 90 Illini #68: Kendall Smith
I'm pushing the restart button here and re-starting this series. As the chances of college football in the fall continue to fall, this countdown seems dumber by the day, but with the non-conference games officially canceled we have a new (temporary) target date for the season: October 3rd at Rutgers. Of course, there's a 93% chance this will change because a 10th game will be added and the schedule will get flipped around. My guess, if there's a season: Big Ten starts the season September 19th, all teams get 10 games plus a new bye week, and the last games are played the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
But for now, all we really know is that the Big Ten teams will probably add a game (likely during their bye week?). If that's the case, we'll add a 10th game on September 26th. So if there is a season, as of now, the target is September 26th. So if I pick it back up now and I count down starting today, #1 will be posted on September 26th. Let's do this! (Until it changes next week!)
68. Kendall Smith
Wide Receiver/Defensive Back
Uniform number: 17
Year in school: Redshirt Junior (2 years to play 2)
Height: 6'-1" -- Weight: 200 lbs.
Hometown: Bolingbrook, Illinois
High School: Bolingbrook HS
Five best offers: Northern Illinois, Nevada, Western Michigan, Wyoming, Toledo
Tom Cruise rating: 2.5 Cruises
2019 statistics: Played in 2 games on special teams.
For starters, I'm listing him as a redshirt junior. He played in all 12 games as a true freshman and then played in 10 of the 12 games in 2018. Last year, he only played in two games (not sure if that was due to injuries or players in front of him), so with the new rule, he still has two years of eligibility. This doesn't mean that fifth year is guaranteed - scholarships are guaranteed for four years and the fifth year you serve at the pleasure of the president - but technically he's a redshirt junior.
And his path has been very similar to other bounce-around players. I'll give you two examples. Trenard Davis went from cornerback to safety to quarterback to wide receiver (a wide receiver who threw a touchdown pass in the 2018 Penn State game). For Davis, unfortunately, he never really found his spot and didn't play much last season. There's also Justice Williams. From linebacker to wide receiver to tight end. He did find his spot, teaming with Daniel Barker as the 1-2 punch at tight end last year. I feel like Justice Williams' entire five-year journey led to that 30-yard diving catch in the first half against Michigan State that set up our first three points. They would come in handy later.
Smith has bounced between wide receiver and defensive back during his three seasons. Back and forth twice I believe. Started at WR, then safety, then last spring he was back at WR. Then, in fall camp, back to safety.
You probably know what I'll say first. At some established program, this is the year when we'd learn about Kendall Smith. He'd have come in with the 2017 class, redshirted, be on the scout team for two years, and then push his way into the lineup his fourth season. Instead, he played in every game in 2017 (because more or less the entire recruiting class did). As a result, most have dismissed him. Only played in two games last season? Well then, one more year and his four years are up.
I'd point to Justice Williams as my "not so fast" there. Smith is a fourth-year player and I have him at #68 on this list, so no, I'm not expecting a breakout season - I'm just saying "not so fast". Justice Williams bounced around for four seasons and then, in his fifth season, after four years of 15 special teams tackles and 1 catch, he has 14 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown (the biggest catch being that 33-yarder against Michigan State).
I'm not sure where Smith plays this season, or if he even plays (WR? Safety?). I'm simply saying that I love a good Justice Williams story and hope to see another one.