The 90 Illini #66: Dylan Wyatt
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This must be the "out injured last season" part of the 90i list. Which is another way of saying "I should probably have these guys ranked higher, but after missing all of last season, I'm not sure where they stand in the rotation at this point".
Take Dylan Wyatt. Plays in 10 of 12 games as a true freshman but then misses all of last season. At the end of last season, the cornerback rotation seemed fairly clear: Nate Hobbs and Tony Adams were the starters, Devon Witherspoon was clearly the #3 guy, and Nick Walker was #4. Would Wyatt have been in front of Walker had Wyatt not missed the season? Not sure. So it's hard to know if Wyatt or Walker should be ahead on this list.
Obviously, since I haven't gotten to Walker yet, I'm saying that he's ahead. But it's possible that I'm placing Dylan Wyatt way too low. Just like starting jobs, backup spots shouldn't be lost just because you're injured.
66. Dylan Wyatt
Uniform number: 22
Year in school: Redshirt Sophomore (3 years to play 3)
Height: 6'-0" -- Weight: 180 lbs.
Hometown: Oakland, California
High School: St. Mary's College High School
Five best offers: San Jose State, Northern Colorado, Weber State, Northern Arizona, Howard
Tom Cruise rating: 2.5 Cruises
2019 statistics: Missed the entire season with an injury, took a redshirt.
In a way, this was a very useful redshirt year. The defensive secondary was very thin going into the 2018 season, so the coaching staff loaded up on recruits and played all of them (Dylan Wyatt, Nick Walker, Sydney Brown, Kerby Joseph, Delano Ware, Quan Martin). Now, with some depth having filled in, it would be nice to redshirt more than just Wyatt. With seven junior safeties this fall, I'd love to see them redshirt Martin and Joseph so that they can return in 2021 with two years of eligibility. That's what Wyatt will have after missing last season.
I remember liking Wyatt on film, and in his very first game (against Kent State) I seem to remember him reading a play tackling a Kent State receiver in the backfield. As excitable as I am, I'm surprised I didn't declare him the Next Great Illini Cornerback at the time. (I looked back through my tweets at the time and I didn't - I simply noted that four freshmen were out there on the opening kickoff of the 2018 season: Wyatt, Ware, Joseph, and Khalan Tolson). Wyatt then missed two games in 2018 with an injury and missed all of 2019 with an injury. So I'm back to not being sure what he'll provide (it's been 18 months since I saw him play football).
Of all positions, cornerback seems to be the most set in stone. There are four players who will soak up nearly all of the snaps: Nate Hobbs, Tony Adams, Devon Witherspoon, and Marquez Beason. I'd love to see them design a nickel package (barely used one last year) which gets three of those four on the field as much as possible. At corner, at least, this roster is as strong as anyone in the Big Ten besides Ohio State. I believe all four of those guys will be in NFL training camps at some point (if not drafted).
So that makes it a bit difficult for guys like Nick Walker and Dylan Wyatt this season. Walker is a senior, so this will be his final shot at snaps, but Wyatt will be a redshirt sophomore. Two of the four cornerbacks graduate this season, so for Wyatt, the job is clear. Push for minutes (and maybe grab some special teams snaps) this fall, and then really make a push for a spot in the rotation after Hobbs and Adams graduate.