Catching Up

Aug 7, 2020

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I feel like I'm about 13 days behind. So much news has come out (and I've "attended" so many Zoom press conferences today) that I don't really know where to start. Perhaps the best way to go about all of this is a slapdash post. Let my brain wander and whatever comes to mind... just start typing.

TreSean Smith Not On Roster

This one was a gut punch. As you may know, I was very high on Smith. Thought him to be the biggest offseason acquisition. Gave him 4 Tom Cruises. We had no idea who would replace Stanley Green next to Sydney Brown at safety and suddenly here's the ideal safety transferring in from Louisville.

I asked Lovie about it during the (Zoom) press conference after practice and he said this:

"We believe in the graduate transfer market so we'll continue to recruit a lot of those guys. Sometimes guys are committed and they end up going in a little different direction. When you're dealing with a graduate transfer, he's not really 'yours', the marriage doesn't really happen, until you get on campus. We were recruiting him. He chose to go elsewhere. So TreSean Smith will not be joining our football team."

So, yeah, that's really disappointing. Only three newcomers received four or more Tom Cruises when I rated them (Reggie Love, Deuce Spann, and TreSean Smith). And now Smith is gone.

He was also going to be #19 on my 90 Illini list. So any time you lose a player out of the top-20 (my top-20 when I evaluate this roster, at least), it's a big blow. Time to find another safety to pair with Syd the Kid (Derrick Smith? Delano Ware? Kerby Joseph? Move Tony Adams back to safety and start Beason or Witherspoon at corner?).

Other Roster Changes

Random things I see when looking at the roster:

  • Chase Brown gets Reggie Corbin's number (2). I like it. (But shouldn't DEUCE Spann be wearing #2?).
  • There's a column on the right side of the roster page that lists "former school" (for transfers). Including a few walkons here (players attempting to pull a Navarro), there are now 20 players with something in the "former school" column. I've written about transfers so many times and yet that's still jarring. Twenty.
  • Final count on scholarship seniors: 24. So the official numbers: 7 in 2017, then 8 in 2018, then 11 in 2019, now 24 in 2020. It has to be a significant year.
  • Juco linebacker Lavar Gardner didn't make it. With the increase in grad transfers and decrease in jucos under Lovie, I had kind of forgotten that maybe 20% of juco recruits never arrive. I don't know the story here - admissions? going somewhere else? - but Gardner won't be part of the team.
  • Moses Okpala is now listed at 295 lbs so yes, defensive tackle, not defensive end. If he was 275 I might say "they could still look at him as a strongside defensive end", but at 295 (as a redshirt freshman), all DT.
  • I know nothing about walkon linebacker Isaac Darkangelo besides the fact that I've given him the nickname "Dark Angel" but then I see his photo and yeah, that's exactly the deep stare necessary for the nickname. Please, Bobby Ligs, get Dark Angel on one of your coverage units this fall.
  • Speaking of walkon transfers from lower-levels, there's a walkon offensive lineman from Williams College in Massachusetts named Terry Zapf and for some reason my brain has stored the information that Williams College is the Ephs. I googled and their helmets look like this. Which means his helmet said Ephs and his jersey said Zapf. I have no idea why I told you that.
  • Dylan Wyatt and James Knight aren't listed. Both missed last year with injuries, so combine them with Ricky Smalling and Joseph Thompson and there's a lot of players who didn't return after last year's injuries.
  • And some super sleuthing: junior walkon linebacker Alec McEachern is #46. New defensive lineman Johnny Newton is also #46. McEachern was a fullback on the Dre Brown direct snap touchdown in the Rutgers game. Therefore, even though he's still listed as a linebacker on the roster, I'm guessing McEachern has moved to fullback/TE. They wouldn't give two defensive players the same number.

We Have A New Punter Named Hugh And He Was Born In 1993

We've gone the ProKick Australia route again and landed on Hugh Robertson. Yes, it sounds like he belongs on the 10:00 news - "you're watching Action-4 News with Diane Foster and Hugh Robertson" - but he's our new punter from Australia. He'll redshirt this fall while Blake Hayes is a senior and then be our starting punter until he's 30.

Perhaps this is the best way to put it: Had he been in the United States playing American football, Robertson would have been in the 2012 recruiting class with V'Angelo Bentley and Justin Hardee. After his redshirt this fall, he'll be a 28 year-old freshman in 2021. So in 2024 we'll have a 31 year-old Australian punter named Hugh who was a police officer for 7 years in Australia. OSSSSkee-wow-wow, Illinois, our eyes are all on you.

Testing Every Day

When I went to see the Lou Henson jacket outside the State Farm Center last week, I first drove through the west circle drive. That's not where the memorial was (it was on the east), but I did find that the SFC is one of the campus Covid testing facilities (there's one outside Memorial Stadium as well). This should have pushed me to look up the campus testing plan, but I didn't.

Today, Lovie noted that the players will be tested every day. I saw that tweet spread around Twitter quickly ("at least one P5 program will be testing daily"). That made me immediately think "wait, are we sure that doesn't hurt testing capacity in Champaign?", which led me to finally research the campus testing plan, which led me to some Illini pride.

You may already know this (I didn't), but chemistry professor Martin Burke and his team developed a saliva test for Covid-19. Here, I'll just let the press release tell you:

Traditional COVID-19 tests rely on a nasopharyngeal swab. But Burke says a recent study indicates that saliva may be more sensitive to COVID-19 testing than the nasal swab method. He says the saliva test developed by the university is scalable and not subject to supply chain bottlenecks that have limited access to nasal swab testing. Burke says researchers also created a COVID-19 antibody test which will be used "on a more targeted basis."

The University converted a veterinary diagnostic lab into a Covid testing facility with the ability to process 10,000 tests per day (!!). With this lab on campus, athletes can be tested daily, the general student population can be tested throughout the school year, and all of this can be done with University funds and University materials so that there is no burden to other government-run testing facilities.

I-L-L, right? Good work, Professor Burke. I got a D fourth quarter in high school chemistry so I would have totally failed your class.

So that answers some of the "how?" questions that have been raised over the past few weeks. Every single day, every player is tested. If anyone tests positive, they don't go to practice and they're quarantined. The way Jake Hansen talked about it today, it sounds like each player gets his results each day before he can practice, sort of a "scan your card and wait for the green light before going through the door" kind of system. Red light means you can't go in.

There are obviously more hurdles than that. One Ohio State defensive tackle positive for Covid could infect our entire offensive line in the second quarter, and then you have an outbreak, and then you might have to quarantine the whole team. But on the "how will this work?" side of things, I think I understand a little better now. Without a bubble, "test before entering the building every day" is probably the next best thing.

Hope Ohio State's professors are just as smart.


Nashvegas Illini on August 7, 2020 @ 08:07 AM

Thanks for the info on the testing. That really was a question I had. How and when will they test and how long to get the results. I do wonder what the other BIG teams are doing and how.

uofi08 on August 7, 2020 @ 09:38 AM

Good catch up. That’s awesome about the testing. I wonder how that will mesh with whatever the big ten implements. I thought I heard that the conference would have a 3rd party lab to keep the testing and results standardized amongst all teams. Either way on-campus daily testing is awesome.

The TreSean Smith situation just illustrates how risky it is to rely on grad transfers. They’re quite literally free agents until they step foot on campus. Losing a starter on the first day of camp is never a good thing.

I’m still having a hard time seeing Okpala as a DT. It’s rare to see 6’7” guys in the interior. I’m still holding the belief he’s either a SDE or OT by the time he graduates. One caveat is what his actual height is. If he’s closer to 6’4, 6’5, I can see him as a DT.

Really interested to see your depth chart. I think I’m leaning to putting Adams at safety and starting Beason at corner. I think that gets your best athletes on the field, and I think Ware and Smith don’t have near the coverage ability of Adams.

sudden_valley on August 7, 2020 @ 10:44 AM

Narrator: They aren't.

neale stoner on August 7, 2020 @ 02:39 PM

Robert, a question I’d like you to try to report on—why hasn’t the Illinois test been shared/adopted elsewhere?

Robert on August 7, 2020 @ 10:12 PM

In case you didn't see McAdoo's response directly below, the University announced that the state approved the use of the lab for Covid testing on campus, but FDA approval would be required before other labs on other campuses could use it (which the University has apparently applied for).

McAdoo on August 7, 2020 @ 02:56 PM

Concerning the "Illinois test", the federal government has only given the University a very limited approval. Essentially, the University can only provide the test to students and staff at this time. The University has applied for a more expanded approval. Some additional details about the test are available here:

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on August 7, 2020 @ 08:09 PM

If you're going to bring up COVID, at least bring up our results, as we are one of the only schools actually publishing. . . 1200+ tests, 160-something athletes, 23 positives, and only 4 that were "remotely symptomatic."

Play the f'n games!!!

Robert on August 7, 2020 @ 10:18 PM

"we are one of the only schools publishing" is not correct. Illinois is one of a small group of schools that said they wouldn't announce testing numbers.

In yesterday's media Zoom call, Josh Whitman said that their reasoning was that because the athletes were being brought back to campus in small groups spread out over weeks, if they announced "3 positive tests yesterday", people would be able to speculate on which players had tested positive upon arrival. So for privacy concerns, they only announced the total number after two months of students arriving on campus.

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on August 7, 2020 @ 08:10 PM

A guy like Okpala at DT puts a big crimp in that TE drag across the middle route. . .

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